Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between barbeque charcoal and biochar? Can't I use ordinary commercial barbeque briquettes/lumps instead?
Charcoal briquettes, the most commonly used charcoal, are permeated with additives. They are manufactured using lighter fuel, binders and accelerants. These substances can introduce toxins into the soil or it could drastically increase soil pH which will create a lot of soil problems. The most common contaminants associated with briquettes are heavy metals — including cadmium, copper, chromium, lead, zinc, mercury, nickel and arsenic — and then there is also Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons.
If you use lump charcoal and grind it to a granular texture, you may (or may not) be able to use it as a substitute for purpose made biochar. Lump charcoal doesn’t have any of the bad additives, but it is still uncertain in terms of ash content, porosity and whether it is fully carbonised. It often still has some unburned material inside. Then, of coarse, you will still need to charge the "empty" carbon with nutrients, fungi and microorganisms.
Can I make my own biochar?
Yes, if you have time, space, feedstock and an adventurous spirit, you will be able to make your own. The internet will show you many ways to make it. In the end it is the quality that matters. Good quality depends on a number of factors and can only be achieved with a proper understanding of the science behind it.
How does Biochar help with compost-making?
Biochar is found to be beneficial for composting because it reduces greenhouse gas emissions and prevents the loss of nutrients in the compost material. It also promotes microbial activity, which in turn accelerates the composting process. Plus, it helps reduce the compost’s ammonia losses, bulk density and any foul odours.
The process works both ways: biochar enhances the compost, and the compost enhances the biochar, because that biochar becomes "weathered" - not only inoculated by nutrients and organisms, but the pores also tend to open up more the longer biochar is interacting with the humus rich environment.
Is there a health risk when handling biochar?
Biochar is non-poisonous, neutral carbon. When it is well prepared, it can be bitten into and even ingested. It is odourless and tasteless. The only concern with raw, dry biochar, is that it easily creates a lot of dust which would be unhealthy to inhale. This is another reason to prevent LSC from drying out before use.
What is the difference between biochar and activated carbon?
Activated carbon, as used for medical and water filtration purposes, is a laboratory controlled pure grade of charcoal that is processed at higher temperatures than biochar. It involves a process to open up the pores within the carbon even more. This is either achieved chemically or by steam.
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