Biochar is being touted as an environmentally friendly way to remove carbon dioxide from the environment, while amending your soil, but is it as friendly as proponents claim?
What is biochar?
Biochar is charcoal made from plant matter burned in a low oxygen environment. You know those big chunks left over in your fire pit? That’s pretty much biochar.
How does biochar act as a soil amendment?
Biochar is said to increase the fertility of acid soils (low pH). Here, in the Bay Area, our soil is more alkaline (high pH), so biochar wouldn’t be a good idea whether it works or not. It is also claimed to act as habitat for many beneficial soil microorganisms. This may or may not be true. How many living things do you find in your fireplace?
How is biochar supposed to help the environment?
Enthusiasts claim that burning vegetation and burying the resulting biochar will sequester tons of carbon in the soil. Of, course, it’s not that simple. The initial burning, alone, releases carbon into the atmosphere.
Bottom line: not enough research has been conducted to prove the claims being made about biochar.
My suggestion: stick with mulch and compost, and drive less.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!