The Hudson Mohawk RC&D Council has sponsored several workshops on biochar and how to make it in your own back yard. Biochar is a carbon-rich soil amendment that enhances soil fertility, sequesters carbon to help reverse global warming, increases renewable energy production, and creates jobs. Furthermore, the use of biochar as a soil amendment may be the foundation of a new paradigm for modern agriculture, addressing the significant loss of top soil and organic C from erosion and accelerated oxidation, due largely to non-sustainable tillage and residue management practices. Globally, desertification is caused by many factors but soil degradation is a common thread. Recent scientific evidence has shown that biochar applications have the potential to increase water and nutrient holding capacity of soils while greatly increasing levels of soil organic C. Biochar applications are also reported to increase crop yields especially on degraded and marginal soils.
Biochar Impact on Soil Quality: In a 500 day trial conducted by USDA, adding hardwood biochar to a plot led to:
- 20% increase in cation exchange capacity (nutrient retention ability)
- 18% increase in specific surface area
- 7% reduction in bulk density (compaction)
- 1 unit of pH rise
- 15% increase in water retention
- 7% increase in total N in soil
- 70% reduction in leaching of P
- 20% reduction in leaching of N
- 69% increase in C content
- Ammonia emissions reduced by 64%
- Preliminary reports suggest that biochar additions may reduce N2O (nitrous oxide) emissions from ag soils
- 4 -15% increase in plant yields in high soil quality, temperate regions (IA); much greater in degraded or sandy soils.