Biochar is a charcoal product that helps soil retain nutrients and water. Biochar is the carbon rich product of biomass when wood, manure or leaves is heated with little or no available oxygen. In more technical terms, biochar is produced by thermal decomposition of organic material under limited supply of oxygen (O2), and at relatively low temperatures (<700°C). This process often mirrors the production of charcoal, which is perhaps the most ancient industrial technology developed by humankind.
However, it distinguishes itself from charcoal and similar materials by the fact that biochar is produced with the intent to be applied to soil as a means to improve soil health, to filter and retain nutrients from percolating soil water, and to provide carbon storage. Biochar is found in soils around the world as a result of vegetation fires and historic soil management practices. Modern biochar production also provides additional benefits in the form of increased carbon sequestration and co-production of renewable energy. Biochar is obtained from the carbonization of biomass (the process of converting feedstock into biochar through reductive thermal processing, which involves a combination of time, heat, and pressure exposure factors that can vary between processors, equipment, and feedstocks). Biochar improves soil functions and reduces emissions from biomass that would otherwise naturally turn into greenhouse gases. Biochar is an excellent environmental stabilizer and is one of the few technologies that is relatively inexpensive, widely applicable, and quickly scalable.
Benefits of Biochar
- Reduces waste
- Improves soil fertility and soil structure
- Mitigates climate change
- Reduces emissions from household cooking
- Energy co-production
- Provides jobs in a new industry that operates from a subsistence to large industrial scale
- Offsets energy and processing feedstock costs