WHAT IS BIOCHAR?
Biochar is the carbon-rich solid matter resulting from the pyrolysis or gasification of organic matter. Pyrolysis is a process in which biomass is heated in an oxygen-deprived environment to break down into simpler substances. There is variability in the characteristics of biochar, depending on feedstock and pyrolysis process employed.
Research confirms biochar-enriched soils grow larger, healthier plants with greater yields, particularly in degraded or highly-weathered soils. Biochar’s very high surface area, adsorptive and absorptive properties enable numerous positive effects in soil including:
· Increased water infiltration and water holding capacity
· Improved soil structure, tilth and stability
· Increased cation exchange capacity (CEC) – retaining cations and capturing anions
· Increased adsorption of ammonium, nitrate, phosphate, and calcium ions
· Increased nutrient retention over ordinary organic matter
· Improved soil pH buffering and stability
· Increased soil biology and diversity
· Enhanced, denser root development
· Reduced fertilizer runoff and leaching, especially nitrogen and phosphorus
· Reduced total fertilizer requirements
· Decreased emissions of nitrous oxide by 50-80%
In addition to creating a soil enhancer, sustainable biochar practices can produce oil and gas by-products that can be used as fuel, providing clean, renewable energy. Hans-Peter Schmidt listed 55 uses for biochar – besides sequestering carbon, improving soil condition and livestock health, biochar plays a significant role in many aspects of building, textiles, energy, human health and well-being and in the decontamination of polluted soil, air and water.