What is Biochar?

         The Science



Biochar is currently one of the hottest topics under scientific investigation. This may partly be fueled by biochar’s carbon mitigation potential which emphasises it as a method to combat climate change. Many studies, however, are specifically focused on the rediscovery of biochar as a soil enhancer. Soil degradation is one of the pressing problems of modern times.

It is interesting to note that there are already more studies done on biochar than were ever done on compost. Only a few studies date back to before the year 2000, and most of the research has been done in the last 10 years. As of October 2019, more than 6100 peer-reviewed studies on biochar have been published. From 34 meta-analyses (studies of the studies), Prof. Bruno Glaser, a German researcher, made an illustrative presentation about this on YouTube. He discerns between the myths and the facts around biochar and concludes that there is overwhelming, statistically significant evidence that the use of biochar represents a major breakthrough in soil regeneration.

The few aspects of  biochar that could be interpreted as negative, is found to be scientifically insignificant. Glaser concludes that biochar may be safely applied to the soil under all circumstances.

Negative outcomes are invariably of a temporary nature, mainly stemming from the fact that raw biochar may delay positive results for a season or two. Biochar should therefore always be charged (inoculated) with nutrients and micro organisms before adding it to the soil.

Anyone interested in the technical working of biochar can find a host of information freely available on the internet.

Eden Biochar's area of scientific interest lies in optimising the processes of pyrolysis and inoculation.

The

EdenBiochar

difference

We at EdenBiochar (South Africa) protect the environment by clearing natural dead bush, brush and wood from the veld to diminish the danger of wildfires. We also clear invading species such as acacia trees and other non-indigenous vegetation. We turn these materials (from the finest twigs to the thickest stumps) into biochar through a process called pyrolysis.

The material gets burned in a limited oxygen environment, which causes it to turn into black carbon mass without burning to ash. During this process, all moisture and most of the hydrogen, oxygen and other gases are released without putting any substantial amount of pollutants or CO2 into the atmosphere. 

Once charred, the carbonaceous material is hard and brittle with a magnitude of microscopic pores. EdenBiochar is steam quenched to achieve a higher porosity than ordinary closed kiln biochar.

      Biochar Origins

 

The idea that charcoal can improve soil is an open secret. It has long been practised by ancient civilisations from quite a few areas around the globe, who established fertile lands that are packed with carbon residue.

 

The most famous and well studied example of this phenomenon is the dark fertile soils within the Amazon basin. Long before Columbus, a vast population of native tribes were responsible for creating patches of earth that became known as the terra preta de Indio, portugese for "dark earth of the (red) Indians".

 

Contrary to what most people think, the central Amazon's soils are generally poor and infertile. Most of the precious soil nutrients have been washed away by terrestrial rains. In contrast however, there are many patches of land that were deliberately transformed into extraordinary fertile fields. Exactly how these fields of terra preta came into being is still not clear in every aspect, but an abundance of embedded human artifacts tell us that it was man-made, whether by accident or on purpose.

 

This happened between 2000 - 7000 years ago, and the blackness of the soil proclaims the fact that the carbon is still there. Even today, when a piece of terra preta is leased in the Amazon basin, the price for such an area is much higher than other non-terra preta land. Plants not only grow up to three times faster, but are also more nutrient-dense when compared to those cultivated in neighbouring soils.

 

The carbon contents of the terra preta areas are about eight times higher than the surrounding soils. The depth of the fertile topsoil, containing the rich organic matter, is not the usual 10-20 cm, but extends down to two meters deep in places. The soil organic matter content is high in nitrogen, phos-phorus, potassium and calcium.

 

Other places where similar soils have been discovered, include Ecuador, Peru and certain savanna regions in Africa.

Biochar remains in the soil for long periods.
A single application will enhance the soil permanently.




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Copyright© 2020 EdenBiochar, All rights reserved
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Copyright © 2020 EdenBiochar, All rights reserved
Biochar is a subtype of charcoal, purposely processed from specially selected biomass to enhance the quality of soil for gardening or agriculture. While not a fertiliser by itself, it acts as a catalyst to improve soil quality and fertility in several ways:

A mere gram of biochar may have a total surface area of up to 500 square meters. The difference between biochar and activated carbon (used in medical and water filter applications, etc.) is the purity grade and the number of pores. For soil amendment, the charring process should be relatively cool (300 C - 600 C), whereas for activated charcoal the temperature needs to be a lot higher.

EdenBiochar consists of a combination of coarse and fine particles. The coarser the particle, the more water it can hold, and the more aeration it can give to the soil. The finer the particle, the more surface area is available as a habitat for microorganisms to flourish in. Finer particles also aid more in the adsorption of toxins and other harmful chemicals such as the chlorine from our water supply. The end product is lightweight and fine-grained.

Case Study: Our Olive Orchard

The formulation of EdenBiochar's main product, LSC (Living Soil Concentrate) has been completed by October 2019. Since then, we have started using and testing LSC in our soil on an ongoing basis.

 

One test involved our olive orchard consisting of 120 trees which were planted during May/June 2018. They were planted in 8 rows of 15 trees each. Around each tree we placed a thick layer of compost on top of the soil and further  layer of mulch to top it off.

 

By late November 2019, we enriched one of the 8 rows with LSC. The other trees were meant to be the control group for the comparison.  We carefully measured the height and width of every tree at the beginning of the experiment. Most of them were still under a meter tall.

 

We then removed the mulch around each tree in row 8 and sprinkled about a liter of LSC around

each of the 15 trees. Then we added a layer of fresh compost and a thick layer of mulch. 

In April 2020 we measured all trees once again. Although it was only four months since we added the LSC, we could see a dramatic improvement in row 8 as opposed to the other trees. Just look at the results:

Average growth
Without LSC9.09%.  With LSC: 28.89%!
Those with LSC grew more than 3x faster.

Trees/row that grew at least 10%
Without LSC:  Avg 8.1 out of 15. (Rows 1-7)
With LSC: 14 out of 15! (Row 8)

We have now applied LSC to all the trees except for row 5, the best performing non-LSC row to date. This row will serve as a control for the continuation of our experiment on which we will report again in future.