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Ancient practice of using Biochar is good for soil, carbon capture, and potentially syngas

Biochar—a mix of burnt vegetation, soil, manure, and other natural ingredients—is incredibly healthy for soil and holds carbon well.

NISTPASS writes,

Biochar is an ancient practice that converts agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security and discourage deforestation. The process creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water. Biochar is found in soils around the world as a result of vegetation fires and historic soil management practices. Biochar can be an important tool to increase food security and cropland diversity in areas with severely depleted soils, scarce organic resources, and inadequate water and chemical fertilizer supplies. Biochar also improves water quality and quantity by increasing soil retention of nutrients and agrochemicals for plant and crop utilization. More nutrients stay in the soil instead of leaching into groundwater and causing pollution. This mixture produces highly fertile, longlasting soil. The native people had discovered and used a method of enriching their poor soils with easily-made charcoal to enable a source of food for a large population.

Recently scientists have got very excited about this for another reason too: charcoal is a stable form of carbon….All over the world, scientists involved in the International Biochar Initiative, and other similar projects, are investigating the incredible properties of Biochar. If revitalising soil and capturing carbon weren't enough, the production of charcoal produces gas, called syngas that can be used as fuel, providing clean, renewable energy. When the biochar is buried in the ground as a soil enhancer, the system can become "carbon negative."

Implications

NISTPASS writes,

"Biochar and bioenergy co-production can help combat global climate change, including Asia Pacific region, by displacing fossil fuel use and by sequestering carbon in a stable soil carbon pools. It may also reduce emissions of nitrous oxide and methane. As an alternative of environmentally sound soil amendments, Biochar will potentially be widely promoted. This is an appropriate technology that is easily adopted by low end users in Asia countries recently."

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Sources:

NISTPASS Science and Technology Scanning: Asia Pacific, Dec 2010, pg 6:
http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/NISTPASS_Dec2010.pdf#page=6

Biochar Is a Valuable Soil Amendment - Biochar is a Powerfully Simple Tool to Combat Climate Change http://www.biochar-international.org/biochar

Gani, A. 2009. Biochar Penyelamat Lingkungan. Warta Penelitian dan Pengembangan Pertanian. 31:15-16. http://www.pustaka-deptan.go.id/publikasi/wr316099.pdf

Jackson, J. 2010. Biochar-Wisdom of Ancient Amazonians May Hold Secrets of Carbon Capture. Environment and Technology Correspondent. http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/news/353300,biochar--wisdom-of-ancient-amazonians-may-hold-secrets-of.html

Lehmann, J. and M. Rondon. Bio-Char Soil Management on Highly Weathered Soils in the Humid Tropics. Biological Approaches to Sustainable Soil Systems: http://www.css.cornell.edu/faculty/lehmann/publ/Lehmann%20et%20al.,%202006%20Biochar%20soil%20management.pdf