- BIOCHAR AS A NATURAL CARBON SEQUESTRATION METHOD
- Biochar is the charcoal applied to the soil along with other amendments to enhance the fertility of the soils. Biochar is not nutrient nor food for soil microbes, acts like a catalyst for the soil. Biochar for soil is like coral reef for sea. All other soil nutrients are required to be replenished regularly as per the conventional sustainable practice by the farmer.
Biochar is a recent term, but charcoal plus applications to soil was as old as civilizations existed. Terra Preta in Amazon, RAAB in India, Babito in Camaroon, BOCASHI or Bokashi in Japanese as some of the practices, using Biochar. The Biochar applied in the soil would last more than 1000 years. Even if small amounts of Biochar are applied every year, cumulatively it becomes huge. As we require about 10 tonnes of Biochar per hectare, say 0.5 to 1 ton applied per year in next 20 to 10 years respectively, one could easily reach the desired quantity. It is always good to gradually add Biochar to the soil rather adding all the Biochar in one go. There is also need to add other components along with the Biochar. Incremental Biochar plus application would condition the soil for better colonization by the soil microbes. There won’t be much burden on the environment too. The farmer can plant fast growing species within the field or convert the crop residue or use any other less useful plants in the area for Biochar production and could apply gradually over few years. This practice would be more sustainable and less costly for the farmer. Importing of Biochar from elsewhere should not be encouraged; the worst fears are that forests or other natural vegetation could disappear in those regions. For every ton of Biochar applied into the soil about 3 tons of Carbon dioxide is sequestrated, one should also account the CO2 emissions during Biochar production, transportation, etc. The biochar application is useful as a means of carbon sequestration and mitigating global warming issues too.
Terra Preta is more than 5000 years old practice in parts of Amazon basin until the Europeans arrived. Along with charcoal the rural trash consisting of pottery shards, fish bones, compost, etc. was added to the less fertile acidic soils to improve fertility of the soils. Similarly the rural trash in many villages in India had similar composition till recent past. The charcoal and ash from the traditional stoves, pottery shards from innumerable uses – such as roof tiles, pots, utensils, cultural utility, etc., compost and urine from domestic livestock, fish and animal bones, etc. was part of the rural trash. This was collected in farm yard manure pits, after composting spread in the fields. The charcoal, a byproduct of the traditional stoves is added to the farm yard manure / compost, which gets inoculated with the soil microbes, which was later transferred to the fields.
The value of charcoal was known to Indians and utilized as part of traditional and cultural practices for various purposes. The charcoal was never considered as a waste material. The crop residue burnt in the fields gets converted into charcoal and ash. In the process, the earth (soil) also gets burnt. This practice benefited the soils and farmers since ages (here no comparison with composting the biomass). The slash and burn in the margins of the forests or inside the forests is a very well known practice all over India (although it is no more sustainable because of huge population demands and costing the sustainability of forests). The burning of grass often leads to higher yields or Biochar. Grasslands are burnt accidentally or purposefully. People burn their crop residue in millions of tones in parts of India, more so during the February to July months as part of field preparations. The waste from the potters kiln a combination of charcoal, pottery shards and little ash was always a valuable source for improving the fertility of the soils. Although the addition of charcoal to the soils was existing as a practice, but it was not explicit, it remained as part of traditional best practices in India. As we explore more and more evidences are visible and proves that the Indian farmers were using charcoal since hundreds of years. Because of such good practices agricultural activity is still sustainable in many parts of India.
The exponential population growth, limited access to resources for agriculture, degradation / alkalinity / hardening of soils, food security, climate change and global warming are the various concerns. Biochar is a part of the solution for the above aspects. There is a need to create large scale awareness among the farmers to continue traditional best practices of biochar application and also adopt appropriate best technologies for improving the fertility of the soils and their sustainability. Integrating Biochar production and application locally is a sustainable practice then large scale production and dissemination. The worst fears are about commercialization of Biochar as a product. No one opposes the small and marginal farmers traditional subsistence sustainable systems.
About the author
Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, Founder and CEO, Geoecology Energy Organisation http://www.e-geo.org, has been working on Environment and Development issues since last 14 years. He has worked in majority of states in India and also contributed abroad on Biochar, Rural energy and Environmental aspects. He has done research and studies on Biochar and Biochar compost. Designed 40 good stoves, which are low cost and highly efficient, also working on efficient Charcoal retorts. Ardant believer and campaigner for Open Knowledge. Worked with the government, National and international - agencies, NGOs, Institutions etc., on environmental and developmental issues. http://www.saibhaskar.com
He is presently leading the project "Good Stoves and Biochar Communities (GSBC)", implemented by GEO, supported by GoodPlanet.org France
A Farmer Preparing Biochar Compost
Biochar in the soil
Biochar soaked urine for soil, source of nitrogen for plants
Definition Climatefarming en francais
Definition Climate FarmingClimate farming uses agricultural means to keep carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses from escaping into the atmosphere. Like organic farming, climate farming maintains biodiversity and ecological balance on productive, argicultural land. But climate farmers like Hans-Peter Schmidt go a step further and covert leftover organic mass into biochar, a solid carbon compound that can improve soil quality. Biochar production also creates a kind of gas that can then be burned to help generate power. A climate farm could grow food, generate power, and help keep carbon out of the air.
Le climatefarming est souvent décrit comme une méthode agricole au moyen de laquelle du CO2 est prélevé de l’atmosphère et stocké de façon stable dans le sol sous forme de carbone. Ceci pourrait permettre de freiner le changement climatique. Mais le climatefarming, c’est également un concept écologique durable pour l’agriculture du future, qui produira aussi bien des denrées alimentaires que de l’énergie et de l’air propre, encouragera la biodiversité et protégera le paysage.
Au travers de leurs feuilles, les plantes prélèvent du dioxyde de carbone contenu dans l’air et le transforment à l’aide de la lumière, de substances minérales et de l’eau en molécules carboniques. Lorsque la plante meurt ou pourrit, ou si elle est mangée et digérée, les molécules longues de carbone sont de nouveau scindées. Ce processus libère de l’énergie et donc du carbone qui, composé à plus de 99% de CO2, s’évapore dans l’atmosphère. (en savoir plus ...)