When added to soil, biochar can bring numerous benefits to your land. An organically produced amendment, biochar has been used for thousands of years to enhance soil and generate better crop yields. Its unique, porous texture provides abundant opportunities for enriching vulnerable soil and keeping it healthy over the long term.
Today, as farmers look to sustainable conservation methods and alternative energy sources, biochar is growing as a valuable tool with great potential. Here, we’ll explore the benefits of biochar, and provide recommendations for incorporating it into your farmland.
Boosts soil fertility
With its porous, sponge-like structure, biochar has the ability to retain nutrients and increase soil fertility for as long as 10,000 years after application. Helpful bacteria, fungi, and other microbes thrive in its complex habitat and vast surface area. This is especially beneficial for sensitive or highly erodible soil in need of conservation, like CRP land. Along with storing nutrients, it can also eliminate concentrations of heavy metals, further increasing soil health.
Enhances water retention
Again, thanks to its porous structure, biochar is excellent for retaining water within the soil. This amplified moisture level helps keep beneficial microbes and bacteria alive under harsh conditions. Like a sponge, it also stores water to add back into the soil when it gets too dry.
Decreases soil acidity
For most soil, the ideal pH is between 5.5 and 7. If the acidity level is too high, it can be challenging to grow plants or crops. It causes the soil to leach nutrients quicker, resulting in poor stands. Additionally, too much (or too little) acidity can make soil difficult to work with and cultivate. Adding biochar to soil can help balance its pH levels and return it to the optimal range.
Increases crop yields
Due to its ability to store beneficial nutrients and ample moisture within the soil, incorporating biochar can lead to a significant improvement in crop yields. Crops and plants grown on biochar-rich soil will have copious amounts of the nutrients and moisture they need to flourish, resulting in better yields and higher plant density.
In addition to storing water and nutrients, biochar also stores carbon in the soil, through a process called carbon sequestration. Harmful carbon is removed from the atmosphere and stored in the holes and crevices of biochar. Experts suggest that, if biochar was globally adopted as an amendment to soil, it could help reduce up to 660 million tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the year 2050.
Reduces agricultural waste
To produce biochar, biomass is heated through a process called pyrolysis. This biomass can be easily produced from agricultural waste like manure, wood chips, weeds, or corn stalks. By turning this waste into biomass for biochar production, farmers have a new, more efficient method of eliminating agricultural waste on their land.
Potential future applications
Although biochar has been in use for centuries, its recent resurgence has highlighted its potential for future bioenergy applications like biofuels. Pyrolysis, or the act of heating the organic material used to produce biochar in low oxygen conditions, produces heat energy. This energy could be used as fossil fuel replacement to further reduce harm to the atmosphere and mitigate climate change.
Biochar provides long-term benefits for your land
After being applied to soil, biochar is incredibly stable. It can endure within the earth for thousands of years, providing long-lasting benefits to the land and environment. In fact, soil treated with biochar by indigenous people in the Amazon Basin thousands of years ago is still being dug up for potting soil today.
Want to start taking advantage of the benefits of biochar? Contact us at FDCE. Since 2003, we have been working in the conservation and bioenergy sectors to help landowners improve their farmland and reap the benefits. As conservation experts, we can help you start planning your biochar project and assist with implementation. Reach out to us today to learn more!