Biochar is a naturally occurring substance that has been around for literally thousands of years. It is the solid output resulting from organic matter being heated in an oxygen limited or deprived environment. It differs from charcoal in that it is engineered and produced in a sustainable manner and is suitable to be used in soil.
The discovery of biochar in areas of the Amazon Basin inhabited by pre-Columbian Amazonians points to intentional creation of this carbon-rich residue as part of historic farming practices. These extensive areas of dark, fertile soil are believed to be responsible for the growth of the Amazonian population due to the productivity of their crops. Unlike the product of wildfires where the organic matter is often completely destroyed, this “terra preta” resulted from organic matter being set aflame and then buried.
Only recently has biochar come to be commercially produced and marketed as its benefits have been recognized. When manufactured in a controlled environment, biochar can be engineered for effectiveness in a variety of applications. Its chemical structure makes it difficult for microbes in the soil to break it down.
The long pores of biochar’s physical structure cause it to adsorb certain types of molecules and retain them. It can attract nitrogen and phosphorus from the surrounding soil and hold it where plant roots can reach it and draw on it during the growing season. It can sequester many times its weight in water for long periods of time without being affected by evaporation. Beneficial soil microbes can also be held in the biochar’s pores and not dispersed by watering or rain.
When used as a soil amendment, biochar may also be an immediate solution to reducing the negative impacts of farming and its inherent agricultural waste. It can also sequester the carbon from the burning and natural decomposition of trees and agricultural matter in the soil, potentially reducing greenhouse gases. Its presence in the soil can also improve water quality, increase soil fertility, reduce nutrient leaching, raise agricultural yields, and reduce the pressure on old growth forests.
Biochar is produced by thermal decomposition of biomass in an oxygen deprived environment. This process is called pyrolysis and can produce liquid (called bio-oil) and gas (called syngas) products along with solids (the biochar itself). How much of each is produced depends on the temperature at which the biomass is processed.
Biosphere-BioChar™ is manufactured through our proprietary pyrolysis systems from R&R Technologies, inc.
Biosphere-BioChar™ products are made from renewable wood resources that have been harvested in an environmentally responsible manner. They are processed to be highly porous and have a large surface area which retains water and nutrients and makes them available to a wide range of crops.
Our biochar manufacturing process is ideal when events such as bark beetle infestations have occurred. The pyrolysis process destroys the bugs and converts the infected trees into biochar that can be used to regrow forests or contaminated land.