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Heating up crop production with this ancient soil amendment…

April 30, 2012

A good breakdown on why you should be growing plants in soil amended with biochar/agrichar (charcoal), from the Rodale Institute…

Article by Dr. Robert M. East, Ph.D.

The term ‘biochar’ refers to black carbon formed by heating biomass (plant wastes, feedstocks, etc.) in an oxygen-free or low oxygen environment so it does not combust. The technical term for this process is pyrolysis. Traditional charcoal is one example of biochar produced from wood. However, the term ‘biochar’ is much broader than this, encompassing black carbon produced from any biomass feedstock.

Biochar is high in organic carbon, largely resistant to decomposition, and is intended to be used as a soil amendment. A widely-held view is that the best biochar is formed by relatively low temperature pyrolysis, ideally at about 500 degrees Celsius. This is a high enough temperature to achieve maximum surface area but also low enough temperature to retain some biological oils that would normally burn off. Commercial charcoal, which is manufactured at higher pyrolysis temperatures and intended solely as an energy source, typically contains chemical additives rendering it unsuitable as a soil amendment. (Read full article at the Rodale Institute website…)

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