What is biochar? Discover the black gold of nature

combine harvester tills land fertilized with biochar

what is the use of biochar? What’s more, what exactly are we talking about? Do not worry if you have doubts about this material, because it is still quite new and it is normal that you are unaware of it.

But I assure you that as soon as you discover all its benefits you will understand why it has been given the treatment of “black gold” and it is increasingly used in agriculture and gardening. It is a great ally for your plants, your garden, and the environment!

What is biochar?

The first thing that should be clear is that we are talking about a charcoal. And a charcoal of vegetable origin is one that is obtained through incomplete combustion of wood or other organic bodies.

We could say that biochar is an evolution within vegetable carbons, because it is obtained through the pyrolysis of organic materials that include from pruning remains to manure. Many leftovers from the agriculture, livestock and forestry sector, which are no longer applicable, can now be used to create this charcoal.

Through pyrolysis we convert all those “remains” in a coal that is highly appreciated worldwide for the important properties it has for both the soil and the environment.

If you are wondering about pyrolysis, in order not to complicate ourselves too much, it is enough for us to know that it is a process that uses heat to chemically break down organic matter. A high temperature, in combination with the absence of oxygen, manages to alter the physical and chemical state of products of organic origin.

In case you are considering the possibility of making homemade biochar, I advise you to forget about the idea. because pyrolysis requires temperatures between 350 and 700º C.

Biochar: an ally in the fight against climate change

vines fertilized with biochar

The fact that this organic carbon is gaining popularity is mainly due to its ability to sequester carbon.

Plants naturally fulfill a function of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But deforestation, together with the fact that polluting emissions are very high worldwide, prevent plants from helping us to clean up our environment. And this is where biochar comes into play.

It turns out that the charcoal obtained by pyrolysis has a great potential to absorb carbon. It retains the harmful substances that are in the environment and prevents them from returning to it. If the biochar is used as fertilizer, at the end biosequestration occurs. Which means that carbon dioxide is absorbed by natural ecosystems, giving rise to new trees and plants that will generate clean oxygen.

Biochar uses in agriculture and gardening

land fertilized with biochar

The intensive agriculture that human beings must develop in order to feed the entire population is depleting soil nutrients.

In recent decades, harvests in many parts of the world have reduced in volume. This is due to factors such as lack of water, but also because the soil does not provide crops with all the nutrients they need to grow well.

One of the reasons why there is so much enthusiasm around biochar is that it has been shown to have some great fertilizing properties.

Added to the soil where it is to be grown, it provides fertility and improves the capacity of that environment to sequester carbon. I mean, what are we going to get? more bountiful harvests while leaving the atmosphere a little cleaner.

Thanks to its porous structure and high surface area, it becomes the perfect habitat for beneficial microorganisms for crops. In other words, this charcoal manages to improve the quality of the soil and thereby improves the quality and quantity of crops.

As if all this were not enough, biochar still has something else in its favor, and that is that it is cheaper than other fertilizers and it is not toxic. With it we managed to reduce the costs associated with agricultural production and, at the same time, we guarantee food safety.

At a more domestic level, by incorporating biochar into the soil we use for our plants, we can make them grow much stronger and more beautiful, without having to resort to classic liquid fertilizers that do not always give good results.

Advantages of biochar

fields fertilized with biochar

  • Improves the quality of acid soils.
  • Maintains soil fertility, retaining nutrients and helping the proliferation of beneficial microorganisms for crops.
  • It can be used for composting.
  • It is a solution for contaminated soils.
  • It has a great capacity to sequester carbon.
  • It’s economic.
  • For those who are engaged in agriculture, the sale of waste materials from their activity to make this charcoal becomes an alternative source of income.

Disadvantages of biochar

crop fields fertilized with biochar

Although it has many good things, biochar, or rather its large-scale production, has some drawbacks that are interesting to consider.

High production cost

Pyrolysis is a process that requires specialized equipment in order to be carried out. Acquiring this type of machinery has a high cost that is not always viable for producers.

Environmental impact

The raw material to make this charcoal is biomass (forest and agricultural residues). If there is not one before proper management of biomass sourcesthis can have negative consequences on the environment.

Greenhouse emissions

Biochar helps absorb carbon dioxide, but before that time comes it’s also responsible for the emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane that are produced during the pyrolysis phase that is necessary to obtain it.

Consumption of logistics resources

A biochar plant cannot be installed in the middle of a city, since we have already seen that it can be polluting. So to the inconveniences we must add the economic cost that its logistics to take it to the points of saleand also the carbon footprint that this generates.

So, biochar yes or no? Everything seems to indicate that its advantages outweigh its disadvantages. Although there is still much to be investigated and analyzed regarding this product, today it is emerging as a great ally for agriculture and in the fight against climate change. Keep his name, because you will surely hear about him in the future. And you, what is your opinion of this product? I’m awaiting your comments about it!

What is biochar? Discover the black gold of nature

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