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Biochar

What is Biochar?

Biochar is a charcoal like soil amendment that is produced when biomass is pyrolyzed using a kiln, conservation burn pile, or other oxygen limiting technology. Pyrolysis, or the partial combustion of organic material, produces stable chars with high carbon content that can persist in soils for decades to millennia. The stability of biochar keeps carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, making it an important tool for climate change mitigation. Biochar can be added directly to soil, or it can be amended with other nutrients to address a wide range of agricultural and environmental challenges. Biochar has been used for time immemorial by Indigenous communities in the Amazon basin, as well as in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

Biochar Production

Biochar can be made with a variety of feedstocks including forest residuals from logging operations, agriculture residuals, clean construction materials, and municipal organic waste. The type of feedstock influences the structural and chemical properties of the biochar, as does the technology used for pyrolysis. Some common methods for pyrolysis include conservation burns, mobile kilns, or centralized rotary kilns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benefits of Biochar

Biochar provides numerous economic opportunities and environmental benefits including improved soil health, climate change mitigation, wildfire risk reduction, and other ecosystem services.

 

  1. Soil health: Biochar improves soil health by increasing nutrient availability, microbial activity, and water retention. Its long-term stability prevents chemical and microbial degradation, ensuring continued improvements to soil fertility. Biochar also absorbs gasses such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide which reduces soil emissions. Biochar helps alleviate issues such as nitrate leaching common to many conventional farming methods.  

  2. Economic opportunity: Biochar reduces operating costs for farmers and timber managers by reducing on farm fertilizer, soil additive, and water requirements. Initial studies suggest that biochar also improves yields, providing additional revenue for farmers.

  3. Climate change: Producing biochar is a carbon negative process such that more carbon is sequestered and contained than is emitted into the atmosphere. During pyrolysis, the carbon in feedstock is converted into a more stable form of carbon that will not re-enter the atmosphere as carbon dioxide for centuries. Additionally, biochar decreases carbon emissions from soil by absorbing gases and reducing the need for fertilizers and other petroleum products.

  4. Wildfire Risk Reduction: Biochar made from recycled wood waste such as timber slash can reduce fuel loads and decrease the threat of wildfire. 

  5. Environmental impacts: Biochar can improve air and water quality by reducing fertilizer use and runoff. Biochar can also aid in environmental remediation by binding harmful heavy metals such as zinc, lead, and copper in heavily polluted areas. This encourages the revegetation of native plants and decreases acidification of soils and waterways.

Contact Us!

Please email us at info@kulshancarbontrust.org or send us a message using our contact page if you have a biochar project idea or would like to be involved in our biochar pilot project.  

Additional Resources

Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources: Washington State University

Myno Carbon Removal, Sequestration and Drawdown

Pacific Northwest Biochar Atlas

 

USDA Northwest Climate Hub: Biochar

Photo credit for top picture: Pacific Biochar

Videos

Photo credit: Biochar.news

Example of a mobile flame cap kiln. Photo credit: USU Forestry Extension. 

Introduction to Biochar in 5 Minutes

TEDx Biochar Presentation

TEDx Biochar Overview

Biochar and Livestock GHG Reductions

Kiss the Ground Trailer (2020)

The Carbon Negative Revolution 

References

Biomass to Biochar: Maximizing the Carbon Value. 2021. Report by Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, Pullman WA. csanr.wsu.edu/biomass2biochar

Gang, D., Collins, D., Jobson, T., Berim, A., Stacey, N., Seefeldt, S., Khosravi, N., & Hoashi Erhardt, W. (2021). Integrating Compost and Biochar for Improved Air Quality, Crop Yield, and Soil Health. A Report for The Waste to Fuels Technology Partnership 2019-2021 Biennium: Advancing Organics Management in Washington State, 109.

Granastein, D., C. Kruger, H. Collins, M. Garcia-Perez, and J. Yoder. 2009. Final Report: Use of Biochar from the Pyrolysis of Waste Organic Material as a Soil Amendment. Ecology Publication Number 09-07-062. Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. Washington State University.

Ippolito, J., A. Donnelly, J. Grob. 2015. Anatomy of a Field Trial – Wood-based Biochar and Compost Influences a Pacific Northwest Soil. The Biochar Journal. Arbaz, Switzerland. ISSN 2297-1114. pp 34-43. https://www.biochar-journal.org/en/ ct/62