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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

United States Biochar Initiative

Wilson Biochar, LLC

International Biochar Initiative 

Project 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. 

Biochar
Play Video

Introduction to Biochar in 5 Minutes

Biochar: The Oldest New Thing You've Never Heard Of | Wae Nelson | TEDxOrlando
Play Video

TEDx Biochar Presentation

TEDxHilo - Josiah Hunt - Biochar and the Future of Farming
Play Video

TEDx Biochar Overview