Introduction to Biochar
Biochar – The Fact!
What is biochar?
Biochar has the potential to be many things to many different groups but most simply, it’s charcoal.
Charcoal made in modern technology, from sustainable resources and is used for any purpose that doesn’t result in it breaking down rapidly back into CO2, like burning it as fuel.
Just these two statements alone, “carbon storage” and “soil improvement” should be enough to get anyone interested, but actually biochar is so, so much more.
Over the last 5 years quite a lot of research has been done on a global scale but there is a whole lot more research still being done and that needs to be started in regards to biochar. So at the moment, we can confidently say that if biochar in the future is produced and deployed sustainably, it will:
1. Help governments and local authorities meet local, national and international, greenhouse gas emissions targets and reduced biodegradable waste landfill targets. It will also help governments to move towards lower carbon economies and lower carbon communities in the future.
2. Help farmers and growers from all sectors to increase productivity, which in turn would help with local sustainability, increased local and national food security, increased local and national commerce and possibly even export. It will allow us to manage other organic wastes such as farm manure, slurry and green wastes more effectively and to maximise the value of the nutrients in those organic (so-called) ‘wastes’. It will also help to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint of farming, one of the largest emitters and footprints on the planet and finally, all this increase in productivity would increase employment
3. Help our environment by reducing the amount of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides that we throw onto soils or use on our plants, reduce nitrate leaching from soils causing less pollution in our inland waterways. It will help to remediate and clean up brownfield and contaminated sites, that have just been left for society to deal with, due to its absorption and fixing qualities and finally, it will help to bring the life back into all soils that it’s used on.
4. It will create a biochar technology industry, manufacturing machines to make biochar, that might also lead to better local energy security, renewable energy and an additive that could make diesel go further, reducing road fuel costs. It might help businesses to carbon sink a portion of their business footprint and give them corporate social responsibility at no cost.
The only problem with all of this knowledge of what biochar might or will do is that we can’t say by how much!
There are so many how’s, why’s, when’s, if’s and buts still, that a lot of this is still unsure, but pretty much all of it will come down to us, society as a whole.
If we buy it, if we make it, if we use it , if we put the investment needed into both research and industry and if we as a society accept the technology needed, then all of the above is possible.
So it’s up to us, as to how much of all of the above we get. Without a doubt biochar will play a part in the sustainable future of our communities, by how much is down to us!
The only fact that we are 100% certain of is that biochar is not a miracle cure for the worlds problems
Only if deployment is done sustainably, carefully and part of a complete strategy, will society feel the true benefit that biochar promises.