The sequestration properties of biochar make it a valuable partner in environmental remediation of all kinds. It can decrease VOC (volatile organic compound) and pesticide contamination in soils and water. This means it is not only useful during production in industries such as oil and natural gas to keep the immediate environment free from contamination, but it can be used to aid in clean-up of toxic spills and to control odors and vapors whether from a landfill or a production facility.
When biochar was added to the soil around abandoned mines in Colorado, areas that were barren of vegetation returned to life. The heavy metals and other pollutants that had been leaching from the mines into the surrounding soil were contained long enough for them to begin breaking down naturally. This allowed the natural vegetation to return and kept the contaminants from making their way into streams and water supplies.
These same sequestration properties make biochar an ideal agricultural tool. The long pores of the biochar can hold many times its weight in water. When the water is “hidden” away inside the biochar, it is accessible to plant roots but much less likely to evaporate. This means less applied water is required and more rainwater is retained.
Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen are also adsorbed into the biochar. These nutrients are not washed away but remain available to the crop, reducing fertilizer needs and the associated costs. The presence of biochar can also increase plant responses to various diseases while decreasing the occurrence of fungal diseases in plants. Biochar has been observed to increase soil pH levels in acidic soil. When biochar is present in the soil, emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane from the soil are decreased.