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What is Biochar?

Biochar (pronounced bio - char), is organic material that has been carbonised under high temperatures in the presence of little to no oxygen [1]. It can be used as horticultural charcoal or charcoal for gardening to improve soil fertility and plant health. In addition, biochar sequesters carbon. 

While biochar is very similar to charcoal, one major difference is the temperature at which it is made. Charcoal is made at roughly 400 degrees Celsius whereas biochar is made between 600–1000 Celsius. The higher production temperature is what gives biochar superior qualities over charcoal when being used as a soil amendment

Research shows [2] that carbon, naturally occurring in wood, turns into a crystalline structure at these higher temperatures. Biochar makes for a more effective long-term solution than charcoal, which has a comparatively shorter lifespan in soil.

Biochar has a vast surface area and porous properties. These pores make it better at retaining water and nutrients than charcoal. But also its ability to “absorb” prevents the release of greenhouse gas emissions from soil, making it friendly to both plants and the planet. 

To get the best out of biochar, it should be mixed with nutrients and microbes - a process known as charging, inoculating or activating.

What is biochar: carbon sequestration

Trees suck carbon dioxide in from the atmosphere whilst they grow, and when they decay, they release the carbon dioxide (CO2) back into the atmosphere. 

In the UK, wood which is sent to landfill will rot down, and wood sent for incineration will be burned to ash, in both cases, the process releases 100% of the carbon.

When biochar is made, the wood does not turn into ash and instead, the carbon turns into a crystalline porous structure. This cannot biodegrade, meaning the carbon is captured and stored for hundreds of years. This process is called carbon sequestration and is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change.

Biochar is a recognised Negative Emission Technology (NET) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

We’re committed to sustainability. Our biochar is made from wood which was destined for landfill or incineration. In addition, we use pyrolysis kilns to create our biochar which utilise smoke to power the process whilst creating carbon neutral heat, making production carbon negative. 

To buy our organic biochar, click here. Alternatively find out how you can make your own at home utilising our domestic smokeless kiln

Did you know?

  • Biochar will increase plant health and growth between 10-200% depending on soil quality.
  • Our biochar is 100% natural and organic, made from waste wood to ensure it is carbon negative.
  • Biochar will reduce the water and fertiliser you need to give to your plants by 15-40%.

What is biochar: a history

The story of biochar dates back to 450 BC in the Amazon Basin. At this time there was a 100,000 strong population in the Amazon Basin in Brazil who were composting and burning their waste in large dug out pits. The cycle of burying and burning their organic waste over time resulted in rich fertile soil, called Terra Preta. The discovery of this soil by ecologists in the 1980s has developed into a field of research aiming to uncover the history, properties and applications of Terra Preta

Learning about Terra Preta’s amazing properties encouraged the re-creation of the soil today. This is how biochar was created. The Amazonian civilisations buried and burnt wood with organic matter (food waste, excretion etc.) and the charcoal made from the wood absorbed the nutrients in the organic matter. 

[1] RHS:

[2] Nature: