Biochar can be applied in many industries

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Animal feed

Biochar can also be used as animal feed. Various studies and tests have shown that the addition of small amounts of biochar to animal feed can lead to a reduction in methane gas emissions and, among other things, better animal health. The use of biochar as a feed additive has the potential to improve animal health, feed efficiency and productivity, reduce nutrient loss and greenhouse gas emissions, and increase manure quality and thus soil fertility. In Australia farmers have already achieved good results feeding biochar to cows.

Absorption mechanism

Biochar has excellent absorption qualities which makes it a good filter medium for heavy metals recycling in water or air. Research has shown that biochar is also very effective in absorbing ammonia, methane and nitrogen in soil, manure or air. There are countless opportunities where biochar can be of high value:

In stable beddings where high amounts of ammonia are formed
In soil when manure is used as a fertilizer and nitrogen leaches away polluting water streams
In compost or digestate where ammonia and methane gasses are released
In building/road construction materials where biochar applied in tunnels can absorb nitrogen released by cars

Biochar for soil quality improvement and remediation

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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:

  1. enhancing soil structure and fertility, resulting in higher yields, disease resistance and a reduced need for chemical fertilizer
  2. increasing water retention resulting into reduced losses from droughts; Biochar can be used to stop desertification, erosion and increase carbon in dryland soil
  3. reducing nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and CO2 emissions; biochar can prevent nitrogen leaching and avoid pollution of the environment and groundwater
  4. 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.

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