It’s a well-established fact that how humankind’s conventional agricultural practices have harmed nature in an unprecedented way, so much so that it can even compromise the whole ecosystem for upcoming future generations. The quest for a sustainable model for the development of agriculture is the present need of the hour owing to the same practices.(secret of BIOCHAR)
Human intellect has been a thing of absolute wonder from the start & possess the ability to bypass or win over any adverse situation either created by themselves or is pre-existing. In these times, however, the former kind of case study was required & it turned out that the answer to a pre-existing problem created by humankind lied hidden under the covers of history & when closely monitored we got something as relevant in today’s time as it was thousands of years ago, Biochar.
Biochar & history
Biochar can be defined as a form of burned organic matter the difference being the presence of oxygen which is either less or is not present during the combustion process. It is a form of charcoal that is made in absence of proper oxygen supply & then mixed with other organic matter to increase its nutritional value.
The earlier use was that of charcoal-like substance & it boasts a 5000 years-long history of direct carbon injection into the soil or use of carbon in charcoal form the history associated with substances closely associated with the modern Biochar is vast & long. Terra preta, an artificial black soil type found in the Amazon basin provides a very evident example of this well-established practice & its history.
The instances like El Dorado states that humankind has known this form of agriculture for a long time & that these practices are relevant even in today’s time
The current required conditioning of soil & need for Biochar
Soil, contrary to popular belief is a proper living entity, a teaspoon of healthy soil contains organisms more than the current global population. Anything with such complications yet such availability needs to be taken care of rather than facing neglect.
The practice of agriculture is entirely dependent upon this soil ecosystem as plants need soil for oxygen, water, nutrients & information exchange. The entire life cycle of a plant depends upon the condition of the soil it gets.
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As time has passed, the current practices have left a deep impact on the natural ecosystem built around this same soil & Biochar comes in to fill the same void that was created due to overuse & exploitation of soil. Extensive exposure to chemicals & bad practices has led to the present situation where soil is becoming barren & useless at an increasing pace day by day.
This condition required innovative ideas like biochar if the current ecosystem is to survive. This highly porous form of carbon works miraculously when it comes to increasing soil fertility & conditioning.
Processing, advantages & Uses of Biochar
The process of making biochar can be termed as pyrolysis of organic matter i.e. decomposing organic matter at elevated thermal temperature & in an atmospherically inert situation. The quality of incinerated matter also affects the quality of the end product. Owing to this, it can attain purity standards as high as 70-80 % in carbon concentration.
The most preferable type of matter consists of 10-20 % moisture like woody biomass & field residue (stubble). Use of contaminated organic sources should be avoided as it can introduce toxins in the end products like heavy metals or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which cannot be disintegrated on stated temperatures.
Locally it can also be produced using cost-efficient, small-scale apparatus like modifies stoves, kilns, cone & pit cones. Along with these methods, a top-lift updraft biochar machine is a common instrument used on small to medium-scale farms.
Since Biochar is nothing but processed carbon it affects soil by working on a three-tier solution which is:
Physical conditioning: the structure of biochar was like that of a honeycomb with massive amounts of pores & mine like interconnections. It improves ventilation & stops soil compaction along with increasing water holding capacity & nutrition retention capacity of soil.
Biological conditioning: it provides the soil with a structure that has a huge surface area, 1 gm of biochar is found to have 9,000 sq. ft. of surface area. This provides perfect housing for a beneficial micro-ecosystem with much-needed microorganisms. It also maintains root strength & repels pest invasion.
Chemical conditioning: it helps in reducing the carbon footprint of the area as it is carbon negative & helps in cation exchange due to which more nutrients are retained thus providing the soil with optimal chemical composition.
This three conditioning approach when applied changes the soil composition in an extremely positive manner. This in turn repairs soil quality, reduces chemical usage, increases moisture thus leading to less water usage & finally results in good yield combined with healthy soil for future use.
Owing to its high purity in carbon, Biochar does not get disintegrated quickly like normal manures, it takes time & repairs the soil in the long run
The advantages related to this miracle matter are unprecedented & because of having high purity, it doesn’t degrade so the capital factor is also diminished as it can carry on for multiple seasons of harvest.
Global & environmental impact of Biochar
Climate change is a concept that is true as well as dangerous. This in turn is largely related to carbon emission into the atmosphere. Several technologies have been implemented to reduce carbon footprint or make nations carbon-negative & biochar is one of the very successful & economical way to accomplish that goal.
It is further researched that 1 tonne of Biochar essentially prevents 3 tonnes of CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere due to its purity. This is turn helps in reducing carbon footprint.
Developing countries like India, which depend highly on agriculture face problems related to soil quality, overuse of chemicals & subtle burning which cause a high level of water, soil & air pollution. In this scenario, biochar is a perfect solution as it repairs soil, decreases dependence upon chemical stimulants thus reducing water pollution & prevents carbon mono & dioxide to escape into the atmosphere.
The global goal of reduced carbon emission will be the greatest achievement & should be the one that humankind should strive for in the present time. Innovations like biochar will help in achieving that goal with upmost of efficiency.