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ClimateCentral • 2 years ago

Biochar’s Potential to Help is Rich, but Hurdles Remain - To hear some of its proponents talk, the substance known as biochar — a form of charcoal made from logging and agricultural waste — has properties that verge on the magical. It not only cuts down dramatically on the carbon emissions that cause global warming; it also has the potential to create millions of jobs, and helps soil retain nutrients and water to make crops grow bigger and stronger. You almost expect to hear the words.

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Pre-Columbian Amazon tribes cleared & burned swaths of forest and mixed the charcoal into their soil, creating rich, dark dirt. Today that charcoal is known as biochar (and is made from waste, not rainforests). Biochar attracts microorganisms that help plants access nutrients in the soil, and it enables the ground to hold more water. locks the carbon in the biomass. Modern methods for making biochar decompose the plant waste by heating it at super-high temperatures in low oxygen.

Biochar Cookstoves Boost Health for People and Crops - This 2,000 year-old practice converts agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security and discourage deforestation. The process creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water. www.resilience.or... news.nationalgeog...

Terra preta (dark earth) from biochar clearly seen on the right with enhanced crop growth. The agricultural benefits of the right biochar is one of the keys to success, together with power generation and carbon sequestration.

The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change (Sustainable Agriculture) - activelifeessenti...

To explain what biochar is, we need to return to the Amazon basin circa 450 a.d. Indigenous people didn’t practice slash-and-burn farming as they do now. They practiced slash-and-char agriculture, roasting wood and leafy greens in “smothered” fires, in which lower temperatures and oxygen levels resulted in the production of charcoal instead of ash. The charcoal was buried in fields where crops were grown.

Günther Folke is a Swedish ecologist and this page links to his writings about sustainability. Here is "a two-barrel charcoal retort" with which anyone can easily produce biochar at home.

"Biochar is charcoal that you bury in your garden. It does many of the cool things that compost does – it holds water and nutrients like a sponge, it encourages crazy fungal growth. But unlike compost, it cannot be eaten by soil micro-organisms. It lasts just about forever. Spend a winter making it, then enjoy the benefits for the rest of your life."