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Terra preta – Biochar

March 11, 2012

If you’re interested in agriculture, horticulture, plants, soil, agroforestry and/or pre-Colombian land management and you haven’t read about terra preta and begun experimenting with biochar, here is some background information and a few links to get you started…

A basic overview from Wikipedia: Biochar or terra preta, is a name for charcoal when it is used for particular purposes. Like all charcoal, biochar is created by pyrolysis of biomass. Biochar is under investigation as an approach to carbon sequestration to produce negative carbon dioxide emissions, thus has the potential to help mitigate climate change, via carbon sequestration. Independently, biochar can increase soil fertility, raise agricultural productivity and reduce pressure on forests, though the degree to which results offer long term carbon sequestration in practice has been challenged. Biochar is a stable solid, rich in carbon and can endure in soil for thousands of years.

Pre-Columbian Amazonians are believed to have used biochar to enhance soil productivity. They produced it by smoldering agricultural waste (i.e., covering burning biomass with soil) in pits or trenches. European settlers called it terra preta de Indio. Following observations and experiments, a research team working in French Guiana hypothesized that the Amazonian earthworm Pontoscolex corethrurus was the main agent of fine powdering and incorporation of charcoal debris to the mineral soil. (Wikipedia)

A few links:

Additional information on Biochar/terra preta from Wikipedia

Biochar Farms is a very informative site.

Biochar – Opensource Ecology

Terra Preta – Cornell University Dept. of Crop and Soil Sciences

International Biochar Initiative

Australian – New Zealand Biochar Network

The Big Biochar Experiment

Brief informational PDF from

And finally… How to Make Your Own from

A two-barrel charcoal retort from Folke Gunther

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2012 10:08:48 am

    Whoa…how do you do it! I thought that I was good at researching and thank goodness I found your site and am able to take a magpies advantage of all of your hard work and researching because I doubt that I would find half of this information without your exhaustive hard work…I figure I am going to have to credit you with part of my Diploma in Sustainable Landscaping if you keep giving me good ideas like this :o)


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