BioChar is an organic soil amendment that can increase nutrient absorption. Produced from plant matter, BioChar is charcoal that’s stored within plant matter. It actually becomes part of the soil matrix and is used in lawns, specifically to promote vegetative growth and restore poor soil conditions. However, its most notable quality is that it is an eco-friendly sediment amendment known to reduce carbon emissions as well as reduce water pollution.
What Makes BioChar Environmentally-Friendly?
BioChar’s high concentration of carbon is thought to be stable for long periods of time—millennia in fact—and is a sustainable, simply way of reducing carbon emissions. As BioChar is produced, nearly 50% of the carbon that is absorbed by plants from the atmosphere is stored in the BioChar and contained for a long time, keeping it from being dispersed back into our atmosphere. And because BioChar is resistant to decomposition, this carbon storage is a sustainable solution. Even during its production process, the syngas and excess heat used to produce BioChar can be used to produce a variety of biofuels.
Other eco-friendly benefits that the use of BioChar offers include:
Improved water quality
Greenhouse gas soil emission reduction
Reduced nutrient leaching
Reduced soil acidity
Reduced need for irrigation and fertilizer
Reduced nitrous oxide emissions
Eliminated methane emissions
The Purpose of BioChar
BioChar is produced from a pyrolysis process when biomass is heated in a low oxygen environment. Once created, the BioChar is typically spread across areas of poor topsoil and mixed in the topsoil, proven to provide a variety of vegetative benefits.
BioChar is best known for its ability to increase plant growth. It also prevents fertilizer runoff and leaching, diminishing the need for fertilizers while also protecting the surrounding environment from potential pollution. BioChar is porous in nature, so it is able to absorb and retain moisture to supply to the surrounding root systems, especially in the occasion of drought. And lastly, it replenishes depleted soils with organic carbon and nutrients, promoting the growth of healthier, more fertile soil.
Coleman Moore distributes ARTichar, which was founded by Iowa State University engineering students in 2013. Their mission is to “develop and implement biorenewable technologies.” ARTichar is an inoculated (biocharged) biochar, which stimulates microorganism growth to transfer nutrients into an easily absorbed form for plant uptake. While plain biochar takes at least three years to start working, inoculated biochar gets to work immediately.\
Benefits of ARTichar
Attaches to the phosphates and other nutrients to make them available to plants
Delivers labile carbon—a major food source for soil microbes
Provides housing for microbes to proliferate
Supplies pore space for microbes and absorption of water
Can improve the aggregation and structure of the soil, which is important for root growth—especially in heavy rains and compacted soils
Binds some heavy metals that may not be allowing plant uptake, causing damage
Increases absorption of soluble substances, which helps enhance biological activity and growth
Reduces soil bulk density
Creates aggregates (clumps) for increased movement of air and water, which increases root penetration, allowing more volume for nutrients and water
Retains cation exchange capacity (CEC), which is often lost, due to rain or normal lixiviation processes
Has a pH of 7