Biochar is a charcoal-based soil amendment produced by gasification or pyrolysis of biomass. This material presents a fine-grained, highly porous structure that improves the physical characteristics of the soil for agriculture. According to the International Biochar Initiative, Biochar is found in soils around the world as a result of vegetation fires and historic soil management practices. Intensive studies of rich dark soils in the Amazon called “terra preta” has led to a great appreciation of the properties of this unique material as a soil conditioner.
Some of the agronomic benefits of using biochar as a soil conditioner are:
• Increases water retention reducing irrigation rates
• Increases beneficial microbial activity
• Moderates soil acidity
• Reduces leaching of nitrogen into ground water
• Improves cation-exchange capacity
Biochar can improve almost any type of soil under almost any condition. Those with low rainfall and poor nutrient contents will benefit the most. Currently biochar systems are being implemented all around the world, reversing soil degradation and creating sustainable food and fuel production in areas with depleted soils and inadequate fertilization practices.