HU2506 | Summer 2008 | Science & The Public Sphere: The Example of Biochar | Terra Preta Nova

How Does Biochar Improve Crop Yields?

From the Sustainable Harvest International spring 2008 Newsletter, which includes a description of a biochar project workshop in Honduras:

Research so far has shown that biochar acts as a soil conditioner, not as a fertilizer. Indeed biochar improves the efficiency of fertilizers, be they chemical a or organic. It acts as a sponge to retain applied nutrients in the rooting zone, whereas these would be flushed with water deeper into the soil without biochar. Biochar also likely improves water retention in sandy soils and likely has beneficial
effects on the microbial communities in the soil.

Research has shown that when biochar was applied to soil, the emission of greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide was reduced. This means that we can retain much-needed nitrogen in the soil for plant growth, while reducing the contributions of soils to global climate change. especially in tropical climates. So, by making biochar with biomass and applying it to soil, we can capture carbon and sequester it into the soil over extremely long time scales. Not only is carbon sequestered, but biochar added to soil progressively improves and has a better potential to increase crop yields.

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