Biochar is remarkable. Not only is it a stable store of carbon, but it delivers huge environmental benefits in its own right.
What is biochar?
When biomass is burned without oxygen, almost no harmful emissions are produced, and the carbon content is transformed into biochar.
On average, it is about 70% carbon, and a porous substance with a very large surface area to weight ratio, allowing the carbon to interact very effectively with its surroundings resulting in a wide range of applications.
Either applied directly, through mixing with compost, biochar improves water retention, increases beneficial bacteria and enzymes, and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
Effects are long-lasting and can result in 15% greater crop yields.
Animal feed supplement
When ingested by livestock, biochar improves nutritional intake delivering health and growth benefits, and by increasing nitrogen compounds in the manure, makes it more effective as a natural fertilizer.
Biochar can be used in building materials to add strength and help decarbonise that industry, and in water filtration to remove heavy metals and pollutants. Additional applications are being discovered as research increases.
The biochar market today
Biochar is being referred to as ‘black gold’, with innovative products and wholesale markets opening up around the world.
An established market is growing fast supplying domestic gardeners and small holdings with a mix of biochar and compost.
Biochar is not yet manufactured in sufficient quantities to support large scale distribution to agriculture, but as production scales and businesses can rely on the supply, we will see more industrial use of this remarkable product.
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Common uses for biochar
Improving soil health, water retention and reducing fertilizer needs
Removing and storing harmful chemicals and metals
Added to building materials to add strength, and reduce cost and emissions
Peat bog restoration
Greatly increases the growth rate of valuable peat bogs, themselves valuable carbon sinks
Animal feed supplement
Improving animal health and nutrient intake