Soil degradation is a major concern in agriculture globally. It is estimated that at least 50 percent of the carbon in the earth’s soils has been released into the atmosphere over the past centuries. The application of biochar to degraded soils can enhance its structure, quality and carbon content. Biochar can also very well displace peat in growing media up to 50 to 70% according to research and trials.
Some of the ways biochar improves the soil quality include:
- enhancing soil structure and fertility, resulting in higher yields, disease resistance and a reduced need for chemical fertilizer
- increasing water retention resulting into reduced losses from droughts; Biochar can be used to stop desertification, erosion and increase carbon in dryland soil
- reducing nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and CO2 emissions; biochar can prevent nitrogen leaching and avoid pollution of the environment and groundwater
- Enhancing soil microbial life resulting in more carbon storage and accelerated composting process. When mixed with compost biochar helps to reduce the ammonia losses, bulk density and odor
It is however important to realize that the positive effect of biochar as a soil conditioner or growing medium very much depends on the biomass used to produce the biochar, type of soil, climate and crop. And many times there is also a post-treatment needed of the biochar to enhance its beneficial properties. It is not a one size fits all solution.