National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service on Biochar


Biochar has the potential to produce farm-based renewable energy in a climate-friendly manner and provide a valuable soil amendment to enhance crop productivity. If carbon offset markets develop, biochar can provide income for farmers and ranchers who use it to sequester carbon in soil. This publication will review the current research and issues surrounding the production and use of this emerging biomass energy technology and explore how biochar can contribute to sustainable agriculture. Biochar is the product of turning biomass into gas or oil with the intention of adding it to crop and forest production systems as a soil amendment.

– National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

Biochar was initially linked to the exploration and archeological study of early human settlement and soils.

These early studies of soils being enriched from what appears to be the deliberate mixing of burned biomass in soils around human

settlements helped spark more recent interest in biochar. These deposits of enriched soils, known as terra preta in the Amazon region

of South America, have a fascinating history of scientific study of their own (Lehmann et al, 2004).

More current studies of biochar are focused on its role in a growing demand for biomass-based energy sources that can mitigate

greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change.

In addition, biochar has the potential to enhance soil quality and soil carbon sequestration.

A secondary source of interest in biochar comes from the growing need to develop low-cost and healthier biomass-fueled stove technology.

Article includes sections on:

  • What is biochar?
    • Importance to farmers and ranchers
    • Increased fertility
    • Moisture retention
    • Soil pH balancing
    • On-farm and community-based bioenergy production
    • Potential income off sets, fuel and soil amendments
  • Relationship to climate change and soil carbon sequestration
  • Limits of biochar and climate change: The fuel-versus-food debate
  • Summary: The future of biochar for sustainable agriculture:

“Biochar has very promising potential for the further development of sustainable agriculture production systems. Also, biochar production provides a great potential for worldwide climate change mitigation that goes beyond its

uses in agricultural production alone. The research on the many complex issues related to biochar production systems is growing very quickly and will be needed to more fully understand the implications for food systems,

the environment and bioenergy production. Finally, biochar could play an important basis for rural economic development because its production can be scaled down for smaller communities closer to biomass sources”

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