Now the first question is: what is biochar?
Soil enriching, carbon gobbling, lo-tech remedy to greenhouse emissions
The Biochar (you can split this word, of course) technology is not a new invention. Our ancestors (much more intelligent than we are) devised this ages ago. We know Biochar by another name. Terra preta, or "dark earth" in Portuguese, is found in the Amazon basin. The soils were created by humans in about 450 BC (see the last link). It is reportedly regenerating itself.
We can create Biochar by pyrolysis of biomass. That is, we have to heat biomass under low-oxygen conditions.
Now the question is: how exactly can Biochar help us?
The answer is long.
First thing first. While Biochar is produced, not only does the process not release the carbon content of the heated biomass into the atmosphere, but the process draws more carbon (in form of carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere. It doesn't stop at that either. Biochar is able to sequester carbon in the soils for millenia. Therefore, it can consume more carbon from the atmosphere and increase its own volume by regenerating itself and rebuild the geological carbon sink.
The microorganic activities in the Biochar soils are very high. Such microorganisms improve the soil by fixing more carbon and making it more nutrient-rich and fertile. Moreover, there's little chance that Biochar will be damaged or the soil will erode. So we won't require any extra measure to conserve it.
Apart from drawing carbon dioxide (a major Greenhouse Gas or GHG), it absorbs other significant GHGs from the atmosphere. It also decreases the soil emissions of GHGs. According to the Wikipedia article, it can "reduce N2O [nitrous oxide] emissions by up to 80% and completely suppress methane emissions." That's one of the best ways to fight Global Warming. To add to this list, Biochar can also act as a source of renewable energy. The energy used to create Biochar can power tractors. Also see this.
Apart from reducing environmental pollution, it can also help us socially, economically and, of course, agriculturally. As it increases the fertility of the soil, the production of crops is much higher. It can help the economy. But most importantly, we can do away with hunger and insecurity of food. It can also help us cut down the high costs of irrigation and harmful chemical fertilizers. (Have a look at this article to see how we've already been benefited from Biochar.)
Wait, there's more. It can also act as a dietary supplement for animals and improve the quality of drinking water. It can reduce the acidity of soil too.
In case you thought that wasn't enough, I haven't really discussed the main thing – the relation between biochar and the rainforests.
One of the main causes of deforestation in the tropical areas is the increasing need of farmlands. Slash-and-burn method is used widely. Apart from destroying the trees, the process harms bio-diversity.
Biochar can create highly fertile lands and put an end to the practice of deforestation. It will restore the ecological balance by saving the forests and wildlife. Biochar will not only save the forests, but will do something the forests do – prevent pollution.
I don't need to say more, do I?
There's a fascinating video on Biochar. I thought that I'd include that in this post but decided against it. That deserves separate viewing. Will post two videos in an hour or so..
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