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Biochar 101

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Biochar is a climate positive solution to waste biomass. Biochar is a way of holding carbon in the soil where it (a) provides structure to sandy and clay soil, (b) holds water, c) provides a home for nutrients and beneficial microbes.
BioChar is, in essence, charcoal with the difference being that it can be made from any and all organic residues.

The impetus behind biochar really came from the richness of Amazonian soils called terra pretta. It was found the the unusual richness of this soil, vs. traditionally infertile Amazonian soils, came from pre-Colombian residents living in the period 450BCE - 950CE adding charcoal and other organic materials to the soil.

What are the soil benefits of BioChar? In soil, biochar, holds carbon in the soil while also increasing soil fertility. Soil fertility is enhanced as the addition of biochar stimulates the growth and activity of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil.

BioChar also reduces the pH of soil and thus decreases the need to manage soil acidity through the addition of pH lowering chemicals such as agricultural lime.

BioChar takes a long time to breakdown and thus has a very long lasting beneficial soil impact - vs. fertiliser.

How is it made? BioChar is produced by reductive carbonisation; essentially baking the organic matter under conditions of reduced oxygenisation while allowing volatile gases to escape and be re-burnt.

How can biochar be applied?

BioChar can be added directly to soil or to compost (where it helps with nutrient retention).

What are the environmental benefits of biochar?

  • Making biochar reduces the CO2e emissions from the decomposition of organic matter (especially methane). Biochar is essentially a carbon negative technology with some people stating that it sequesters 3 x more carbon than would have been the case if material was left to decompose naturally.
  • When added to soil biochar improves soil’s ability to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while reducing nitrous oxide soil emissions.
  • Biochar reduces the need for fertiliser and thus assists in reducing synthetic petroleum based emissions.(4)
  • Improves water and nutrient holding capacity of soil.

There is a vast amount of research on biochar. And the most wonderful thing? You can easily make it yourself using a TLUD kiln! We are doing this with our Palm fronds (which otherwise are difficult to compost as they don't shred easily).

We have manufactured large scale kilns which is generating wonderful impact on Bazaruto Island (biochar helps with sandy and clay soil - but won't make that much difference to soil which is already organically rich).


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