Microbe Solutions Ireland: Biochar Information

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Why Biochar?

Biochar can help to feed the world!

Biochar can help to control climate change!

When the Spanish explorers returned home with stories of enormous cities, and magnificent gardens in the Upper Amazon basin, nobody believed them. When the city people died from European diseases, and the cities disappeared back into the jungle, nobody remembered them.

The secret of those thriving cities was the ground up charcoal, biochar, that was added to their compost heaps. This black compost transformed the poor Amazonian soil into lush, rich gardens. The secret of biochar is that it is full of tiny holes. The tiny holes provide a perfect habitat for the microbes in the soil. The microbes seek out nutrients in the soil and make them available to plants. With the help of microbes even the thin Amazonian soil become highly fertile.

On the climate front, when biochar is buried in soil, the carbon in it is locked away safely for over 1,000 years. Biochar could help to reduce our dangerously high global CO2 levels.

Resources & information on biochar:

Some facts & figures on Biochar:

  • Charcoal is made by burning woody materials without oxygen
  • Biochar is made by grinding up the charcoal
  • Biochar can be made from carbon rich crop wastes such as maize or sorghum stalks – no need to cut down trees
  • Each ton of biochar is the equivalent of two and a half tons of carbondioxide (CO2)
  • The charring process produces more heat than it needs. Surplus heat can be used for cooking, heating or making electricity
  • Worldstoves in the US make biochar cooking stoves, and sell them in Africa. The stoves produce biochar for the garden and cook the supper at the same time. Each stove can produce one tenth of a ton per year, the equivalent of ¼ tons of CO2. A village with 500 stoves would sequester 125 tons of CO2 each year.
  • Such cooking stoves also reduce smoke and problems associated with smoke inhalation
  • The soil in the old Amazon compost heaps has been found to be several hundred times more fertile than in the local area, even after 400 years
  • Biochar works best if it is mixed with compost first. This ‘charges’ the biochar with microbes for quicker results

Biochar will not be able to solve our problems on its own. We seriously need to cut down on fossil fuels. We need to plant trees and to stabilise our population. Also, we need encouragement, like a fair carbon trading system, where people can earn carbon credits by locking away carbon, or spend them on things such as petrol or gas.