Gardening and Farming with Biochar Prevents Toxic Emissions from Soil

April 15, 2011

For farmers, gardeners and those who are raising animals, information from a recent study about biochar may be of benefit when it comes to managing carbon footprints and greenhouse gases. Intensely grazed pastures held  responsible for greenhouse gases by nitrous oxide emissions produced from animal excrement can be better managed through the use of biochar.

In a study funded by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology in New Zealand, scientists conducted an experiment incorporating biochar to soils emitting nitrious oxide from urine patches excreted from cattles.  The use of biochar in the soils reduced nitrous oxide emission up to 70 percent during the course of the experiment.

“Under the highest rate of biochar, ammonia formation and its subsequent adsorption onto or into the biochar, reduced the inorganic-nitrogen pool available for nitrifiers and thus nitrate concentrations were reduced,” says Arezoo Taghizadeh-Toosi, lead researcher behind this experiment.

The process of incorporating biochar into the toxic soil creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain the soil’s nutrients and water according to International Biochar Initiative. Biochar is found in soils around the world as a result of vegetation fires and historic soil management practices.

Intensive study of biochar-rich dark earths in the Amazon also known as terra preta has led to a discovery of biochar’s purifying properties. “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,” says International Biocar Initiative.

A recent post at Climate Progress says biochar might prove to be “a mitigation option for reducing the world’s elevated carbon dioxide emissions, since the embodied carbon can be sequestered in the soil.”

Scientists at Lincoln University in New Zealand conducted an experiment over an 86-day spring/summer period. The study was published in the March/April 2011 issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality. With springtime bringing out a new breed of gardeners, now is a perfect time to learn more about the benefits of biochar.

Source: American Society of Agronomy, International Biocar Initiative, Climate Progress

Photo Source: Lakshmi MushunuriMarijn van Braak



Glenn Meyers

Writer, documentary producer, and director. Meyers is a contributor to CleanTechnica, and founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.