Author: Tamara Dietrich | Published: January 9, 2017
Over many centuries — perhaps millennia — primitive peoples plowed biochar into farm fields, turning poor soil into rich cropland.
In fact, it’s such a miraculous soil amendment that 20 years ago researchers found that biochar applied in the Amazon basin more than 500 years before is still enriching soils there.
“It hadn’t broken down, it hadn’t rotted or degraded or anything,” said Doris Hamill, a physicist at NASA Langley Research Center with a deep interest in green technologies. “And that made people say, ‘Hmmm, you know, if biochar can be put in soils and not break down for hundreds of years, this could be a real solution to global warming.’ ”
That’s right — global warming. That’s because an added benefit of carbon-packed biochar is that, by plowing it into farm fields, it removes the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide indefinitely from the carbon cycle.
But that’s not all.
Biochar can be made from common organic waste material — from chicken and cow poop to sticks and brush from your yard. It can make environmentally unfriendly synthetic fertilizers obsolete. It can trap nutrient runoff before it pollutes places like the Chesapeake Bay. It can even filter out toxic heavy metals from water.
“It’s an environmental superstar,” Hamill said. “It’s global warming, it’s soil fertility, it’s sustainable agriculture, it is protection of groundwater — it just does everything. It’s really kind of amazing.”