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What is Biochar?

What is Activated Biochar?

By definition, Biochar (pronounced¬†ÔĽŅbio - charÔĽŅ), is biologically activated charcoal which is used in gardening, horticulture and land management to improve soil fertility and plant health.¬†

The Benefits of Biochar:

Biochar is activated using organic matter to provide lots of nutrients and microbes. Biochar is very porous due to being made of charcoal, from wood, which has a very high surface area to volume ratio. All these pores absorb the nutrients and microbes. Think of it as a sponge which holds onto all the things your plants love and need to grow!

Three amazing properties of Biochar:

  1. Biochar increases the microbial diversity in the soil and microbes are vital in the growth of your plants because they make essential nutrients which the plant roots absorb.
  2. Biochar improves water retention in the soil meaning your plants are unlikely to go thirsty and you can use less water in your garden! A win-win!
  3. Biochar improves nutrient retention in the soil meaning your soil will retain nutrients for the plants instead of nutrients being washed away with the rain!

Three fact-checked results of using Biochar:

  1. Biochar will increase plant productivity (health and growth) by at least 20% in good quality soil and up to 200% in poor quality soil.
  2. Biochar is 100% natural and organic, made from waste wood. Therefore, it is carbon negative and helps fight climate change.
  3. Biochar will reduce the amount of watering and feeding you need to give to your plants by 25-40%.

The Sustainability of Our Biochar:

Biochar is a recognised Negative Emission Technology (NET) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This means Biochar can be used as a method of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby helping to reverse climate change. HURRAH!

This is the core reason we started Earthly because not only is Biochar great for plants but it’s absolutely awesome at helping save the planet! 

Our Biochar is made from wood which was destined for landfill or incineration, neither of which is good for our planet. 

If you remember back to your biology classes at school, you might recall the carbon cycle in which trees suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere whilst they grow, and when they decay (or get burned), they release the carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. This is carbon neutral - the trees take and return the CO2.

When Biochar is made, the wood is only half-burned so the carbon is trapped in the form of charcoal, and charcoal cannot biodegrade (which is good), meaning the carbon dioxide is safely stored in the ground for hundreds of years. This is carbon negative - the trees take the CO2 but the charcoal keeps it locked away. 

The process used to make Biochar is therefore carbon negative and 100% sustainable. 

So at the end of the day, when you add Biochar to your garden soil, you are helping remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and helping reverse climate change!

The History of Biochar:

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. 
Making Biochar is based on the same principles, using charcoal which is activated with nutrients and microbes from organic matter. 

Looking to buy Biochar online?

Head to our Biochar product page where you can buy a small sample bag, a medium bag or a large bag - which will be enough for 100L of compost! The perfect size for applying to your veg patch!