Biomass Pyrolysis Product Bio-Char: Regenerating Depleted Soil Economically
When pursuing the bioenergy revolution, it is important to keep in mind the health and productivity of the underlying soil. Healthy, productive soil must be high in organic matter. Scientists are learning that biochar--a charcoal byproduct of biomass pyrolysis--can be a useful soil supplement for boosting the fertility of soils. This discovery is actually a "re-discovery", since Pre-Columbian indigenous people of Central and South America used charcoal to boost soil fertility thousands of years ago.
Substantial crop yield increases have been reported for the few trials where biochar has been added to agricultural soils.Biochar is also cited as a "carbon sink" to lower the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. While soil fertility is obviously the most salient advantage to the use of biochar, if carbon hysteria is a useful motivation for some persons to "do the right thing", it is probably better than for them to be selling crack on the street. ;-)
“Biochar, or charcoal, contains most of the plant nutrients removed when the biomass was harvested and can slowly release them to growing plants,” Laird says. He lists additional agronomic benefits of adding biochar to soils:
*Lowers the density of clay soils, increasing drainage, aeration and root penetration.
*Increases sandy soils' retention of water and nutrients.
*Partially offsets the acidity of N fertilizers (liming agent).