Monday, June 1, 2009


What is bio-char?

Bio-char is bio-mass (wood, plants, plant waste) that has been converted to charcoal, but ... not for the purpose of burning it as a fuel, instead it is retained and used in other ways.

Volatile fluids and gasses are captured and used, whereas with traditional charcoal production these "go up in smoke"

Bio-char is produced by pyrolysis: heating in the absence of oxygen, which prevents burning of the biomass (which happens in open fires)

What use is it?

Bio-char, and its byproducts, has multiple uses

---When added to the soil it can significantly improve soil fertility (especially if
some volatiles are left or re-cycled back in)

---The volatile fluids and gasses produce usable bio-fuels, that can be produced on
a sustainable basis

---The carbon, when recycled into the soil, provides a stable long term removal
of carbon (dioxide) from the atmosphere. Removing carbon from the atmosphere is
called sequestration.

Isn't planting trees good enough?

Growing trees takes a long time

There is a finite limit to how much carbon an acre of forest can store

When trees die they decay and release carbon into the atmosphere via CO2 and methane

It is estimated that as little as 10% of the carbon captured by trees remains in the soil over the long term but if trees are coppiced, the harvested biomass can be used to produce a continual source of bio-char. Or if they are harvested for other purposes and the incidental waste is used as a feedstock for bio-char production (e.g. in forestry or sugar can production).

Biochar has been attracting growing interest due to its potential in carbon sequestration and in improving soil health. However, further research needs to be undertaken to answer questions about its properties and the benefits associated with its production and application.

This fact sheet explains what biochar is, the process by which it is produced (pyrolysis) and looks at the possible role of biochar as a soil conditioner and in offsetting greenhouse gas emissions.

The knowledge gaps and research questions which need to be addressed in relation to biochar's production and application are also discussed.
It advocates biochar as a strategy to:

•improve the Earth’s soils;

•help mitigate the anthropogenic greenhouse effect by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering atmospheric carbon in a stable soil carbon pool; and

•improve water quality by retaining agrochemicals.

•sustainable co-production of clean energy and other bio-based products as part of the biochar process;

•efficient biomass utilization in developing country agriculture; and

•cost-effective utilization of urban, agricultural and forest co products.


Erich J. Knight said...

Biochar in India; Country; ://

Biochar Soil Technology.....Husbandry of whole new orders of life

Biotic Carbon, the carbon transformed by life, should never be combusted, oxidized and destroyed. It deserves more respect, reverence even, and understanding to use it back to the soil where 2/3 of excess atmospheric carbon originally came from.

We all know we are carbon-centered life, we seldom think about the complex web of recycled bio-carbon which is the true center of life. A cradle to cradle, mutually co-evolved biosphere reaching into every crack and crevice on Earth.

It's hard for most to revere microbes and fungus, but from our toes to our gums (onward), their balanced ecology is our health. The greater earth and soils are just as dependent, at much longer time scales. Our farming for over 10,000 years has been responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. This soil carbon, converted to carbon dioxide, Methane & Nitrous oxide began a slow stable warming that now accelerates with burning of fossil fuel.

Wise Land management; Organic farming and afforestation can build back our soil carbon,

Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, ( living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.

Biochar, the modern version of an ancient Amazonian agricultural practice called Terra Preta (black earth, TP), is gaining widespread credibility as a way to address world hunger, climate change, rural poverty, deforestation, and energy shortages… SIMULTANEOUSLY!
Modern Pyrolysis of biomass is a process for Carbon Negative Bio fuels, massive Carbon sequestration,10X Lower Methane & N2O soil emissions, and 3X Fertility Too.
Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration, Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

Biochar viewed as soil Infrastructure; The old saw;
"Feed the Soil Not the Plants" becomes;
"Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included !".
Free Carbon Condominiums with carboxyl group fats in the pantry and hydroxyl alcohol in the mini bar.
Build it and the Wee-Beasties will come.
As one microbiologist said on the Biochar list; "Microbes like to sit down when they eat".
By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders of life.

This is what I try to get across to Farmers, as to how I feel about the act of returning carbon to the soil. An act of pertinence and thankfulness for the civilization we have created. Farmers are the Soil Sink Bankers, once carbon has a price, they will be laughing all the way to it.

One aspect of Biochar systems are Cheap, clean biomass stoves that produce biochar and no respiratory disease. At scale, the health benefits are greater than ending Malaria.
A great example;
The biochar Fund is also doing amazing work in the developing world;
(http) ://

Also , I would like Rebut the BioFuelWatch folk's recent criticisms with the petition of 1500 Cameroon Farmers;
The Biochar Fund
h ttp://
and to explain their program;
(h ttp) ://

The USDA-ARS have dozens of studies happening now to ferret out the reasons for char affinity with MYC fungi and microbes, but this synergy is solidly shown by the Japanese work, literally showing 1+1=3

Meenu khare said...

Thanks Mr.Erich J. Knight for your detailed comments. Pl. keep visiting in future also.

new_biochar_land said...

You want to know all the secrets about biochar ?
This book will help !

Here practice and theory merge under a single cover of "The Biochar Revolution" and reveals hidden secrets of science called Biochar

Erich J. Knight said...

Dear Meenu,

Husk power in northern India may also interest;

However, they sell their char for the higher cash value to incense manufacture.

PRO-NATURA INTERNATIONAL has the largest numbers of agroforestry soil-C & Biochar projects. Certainly the largest NGO, across the global south. They are very sensitive in both design and co-opting local social values for creating self perpetuated systems. Like the Exponential growth of biologic systems.


2 or 3°C more. And so what?