How is Biochar Safeguarding the Earth with Its Versatility?

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Climate changes are harshly affecting the productivity of soil all over the world. Extreme weather events are increasing the rate of soil erosion which is not appropriate for lands where crops are cultivated. The overall crop production is affected by the climate crisis.

To enhance the soil condition and maximize crop production, many agriculturists are discovering environment-friendly fertilizers. After the research with compost and mulch, biochar has become an increasingly sought-after commodity in the agricultural industry.

A Closer Look into Biochar Production

Biochar is a carbon-rich material that looks like charcoal. It is produced by burning organic material from forestry and agricultural wastes in a controlled procedure called pyrolysis.

Despite its appearance, biochar is manufactured using a typical process to eliminate impurities and safely store carbon. In the process of pyrolysis, organic materials, such as wood chips, leaf litter, or dead plants, are burned in a container with extremely little oxygen. When the materials burn, they emit few to no polluting emissions.

The energy or heat created during pyrolysis (converting the organic material into biochar) can be captured and used as a form of clean energy. Biochar is more efficient at converting carbon into a stable form and is cleaner than other forms of charcoal.

How Biochar Enhances Soil Productivity, Improves Crop Yield, and Saves Water?

Biochar has many of the same advantages as other organic compounds, but it is a more permanent solution. Let’s understand how it helps earth by saving soil and water.

Biochar Enhances Soil Productivity

Soil is a living ecosystem that has teamed up with microbial organisms such as bacteria and fungi. These microorganisms play a crucial role in improving nutrients in the soil that are fundamentally important to all life on Earth.

Biochar helps increase microbial activity in the soil. Its uniquely complex, spongy structure and chemical nature help these microbes flourish and improve nutrient availability for plants.

According to the research conducted by the Regeneration International Organization, healthy soil that is carbon-enriched plays a crucial role in human health, crop production, and climate change mitigation. Biochar is a permanent organic matter that has the ability to retain nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen which can increase soil fertility and slow down global warming.

Biochar Improves the Crop Yield

As we discussed earlier, biochar has a spongy, porous structure that can attract nutrients and store them in soil. Consequently, it is available to plants when they need them. Hence soil incorporating biochar is more enriched with nutrients. During the growing season, it has lower rates of nutrient depletion. This leads to better plant density and crop yields during harvest.

Recent research by the American Chemical Society shows that biochar with chemical fertilizer products boosted the growth of winter wheat and several vegetables by 25-50% compared to chemical fertilization independently.

Also, the experiments of the Soil Science Society of America found that biochar plus fertilizer added to the soil can improve its quality by 60% more than fertilizer alone.

Biochar Saves the Water

The porous, foam-like structure of biochar retains water which means it improves soil quality by holding moisture. As a result, it keeps bacteria and fungi-the beneficial soil microbes alive during a long, hot summer.

This porous nature of biochar acts like millions of tiny sponges in the soil, which helps drainage and stores more water. Hence, it later benefits the soil when it starts drying out.

According to the American Chemical Society, incorporating biochar and uncharred switchgrass into the soil can augment the soil’s capacity to hold water. This causes improved moisture storage in soil. As a result, it saves the water and money of farmers.

Which Industries are at the Forefront of Biochar Implementation?

It is evident from the information provided earlier that biochar possesses the capability to enhance soil fertility and contribute to nutrient retention. Along with agricultural use, biochar is broadly used in various industries as follows.

Biochar to Safeguard the Environment

It has been more than 150 years, and the amount of carbon has increased by 30% in the atmosphere. Most scientists believe that rising global temperatures are directly related to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

As we all know, biochar has the great ability to hold the carbon in the soil. It prevents carbon from being released into the atmosphere. Indirectly it helps lower global warming.

Activated carbon can filter odors from air and gas streams. These carbons are produced from coal, methane gas, and oil. However, biochar is manufactured from sustainable organic resources, it can replace some of these.

But it is noteworthy that the specific activated carbon or biochar has the ability of air purification, but many of the biochar are not direct replacements. Therefore, biochar should be tested to understand the old carbon properties and potential biochar replacement.

Biochar for Building Sector

The porous nature of biochar can hold air and is a good heat insulator. Many researchers are looking at whether biochar is useful in building and road construction. Washington State University (WSU) researchers have created a carbon-negative, environmentally friendly concrete by infusing regular cement with biochar.

According to their research, biochar was able to absorb 23 % of its weight in carbon dioxide from the air while still achieving a strength comparable to ordinary cement.

Biochar Shields Against Electromagnetic Radiation

Biochar can be used to protect against electromagnetic radiation in microwave ovens, television sets, power supplies, computers, power sockets, and other electronic devices. This feature can also be used in functional garments to protect sensitive areas of the body from radiation.

Biochar in Healthcare Sector

Biochar removes negative ions from the skin; therefore, it is widely used in skin care products in the medical field. In Japan, pillows have long been filled with biochar. It is helpful to prevent insomnia and neck strain.

Biochar for Soil Sequestration

Carbon sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon. It is stored in oceans, soils, and forests. Soil plays an important role in maintaining the balance between the atmosphere and the carbon cycle because it contains approximately 75% of the carbon pool. This results in improved soil and water quality, reduced soil erosion, lessened nutrient loss, increased water conservation, and greater crop production.

Parting Thoughts on Biochar

Biochar has many of the same advantages as other organic composites, but it is a more permanent solution. Biochar has the ability to store carbon in soils for hundreds to thousands of years, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere. It also generates oil and gas leftovers that can be used as a clean, renewable energy source. As biochar is a multi-usable resource, agriculture, medicine, building, healthcare, and many more sectors are prominently trying to incorporate it in their industrial use.

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