Biochar excites me. I think it could be the answer to world hunger and trigger huge reductions in rising CO2 levels in our atmosphere. Sounds alright, hey?!
Biochar, or Terra Preta, is a type of charcoal and like any is created through the process of Pyrolysis (burning when no or very little oxygen is present).
Archaeologists exploring Brazil’s Amazon basin recently discovered that certain areas, where previous ancient indigenous communities were known to have been, had black soils- rich in charcoal and organic matter.
Further studies showed that this was no accident and that in fact the elements present in the soils allowed crops and harvests to flourish. This was to be a revolutionary discovery the Amazonian soils, despite all their abundance, are known to be severely lacking in basic soil nutrients- but here was an ancient method of agriculture that through the natural introduction of Terra Preta was turning the soils into some of the most fertile.
With deforestation the beast it is today, slash and burn techniques destroy huge swaths of forest. Current techniques mean all nutrients runs off the land very quickly and new forest must be felled – an on going and hugely unsustainable process. But slip the potential of biochar into that process and the future of the Amazon becomes a far more hopeful tale than the one it remains today.
Moreover, slip a few Pounds of Biochar into your home garden, or even a few kilo’s into your farmers fields and suddenly the future of food and farming has its silver lining.
What we now know about Biochar, is that it sequesters Carbon from the atmosphere. James Lovelock is a huge ambassador for the ancient and now re-emerging technology, suggesting that “Biochar not only contains the potential to revolutionize modern agricultural practices, but it could also play a key role in keeping CO2 in our soils”.
If this unearthing (excuse the pun) of such an indigenous secret can truly help rebalance our planet today, surely this can only be a testament to what we still have to learn from the indigenous cultures who personified connection between Man and Earth.
In my next post, I take you through a step my step process of how to make Biochar at home in your Garden and from there we will look at how to apply it and gain the best benefits from this true black-gold, an ancient wisdom, destined for the future.
For those interested in further info, this BBC Horizon Documentary gives a nice historical context to the discovery- as well as a glimpse at its potential. Please note this documentary is old and the studies since have gone a long way further in uncovering it’s benefits.