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Could ancient Amazonian technology save our soil?


Today in the UK we have over-farmed our land, growing crops year after year, devastating the soil health. The latest projections suggest we only have 45 harvests left if we keep farming crops as we have done for years. This practice is based on a multi-billion industry of chemicals: fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides, soil conditioners, suppressants etc.

Why do we need to farm with damaging chemicals? Surely there must be an all-natural and safe solution? 

A solution lost in time

The human population started farming crops long before we started using chemicals on the soil. In the 1980s, ecologists made a discovery of a sustainable way of farming crops which can be dated back to the Amazonian Civilisations, 4,000 years ago.

Researchers took soil samples from the Amazon rainforest and using carbon dating revealed the ancient civilisations deliberately added charcoal to their soil, and this soil was found to be unbelievably fertile and rich.

This soil would never naturally evolve in the rainforest due to the intense competition between plants.

The application of charcoal in the soil to regenerate the soil biodiversity and in turn boost plant growth, turned the nutrient poor Amazon soils into a nutrient rich farmland to feed populations of over 100,000 people. The research community has named this soil Terra Preta (also known as biochar).

How does biochar create nutrient rich soils?

 

Biochar has a giant surface area, it’s incredibly porous and these pores are negatively charged. They attract water and nutrients, which in turn attracts microbes. The biochar turns into a microbe hotel, and the diversity of the microbes in the soil blooms. As the microbes grow they produce essential nutrients for the plants to grow.

The massive problem with today’s practice, is using chemical pesticides and herbicides on our soil kills the nutrient-making microbes. And we then add more chemicals to replace the nutrients we have lost. It’s a vicious cycle which we need to completely reform.

Biochar could help regenerate soils worldwide. Our vision is to get to a place where biochar is rolled out as a practical solution on a mass scale to improve the environment across all agriculture and horticulture industries.

 


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