Biochar – natural soil impro­ve­ment

Biochar is formed through the carbo­niz­a­tion of organic matter. The “green char­coal” can be used in many diffe­rent ways. The decisive factor is always which quality criteria have to be met. Carbo­niz­a­tion – the conver­sion of organic mate­rial to biochar – is a process that has been known and prac­tised for many centu­ries. However, only the state-of-the-art PYREG process can control the process para­me­ters in such a way that carbon products can be produced in diffe­rent quality levels and nutri­ents can be gently reco­vered. Effi­cient, envi­ron­ment­ally friendly and without harmful by-products.

EBC – the seal for premium quality

The number of biochar produ­cers and products has incre­ased consi­der­ably in recent years. The offer is large, also the diffe­rences in quality. The Euro­pean Biochar Certi­fi­cate (EBC) offers reli­able quality stan­dards. As a volun­tary Europe-wide industry stan­dard, the certi­fi­cate guaran­tees an envi­ron­ment­ally friendly manu­fac­tu­ring process and pollutant-free premium product quality. Since 2012, biochar produ­cers have been able to have their products certi­fied and are moni­tored regu­larly. A large number of our custo­mers and users of PYREG tech­no­logy are EBC-certi­fied, because only high-quality biochar is in demand on the market at profi­table prices. Here you can find out more about the EBC certi­fi­cate here.

Biochar in the earth

Biochar is highly porous and has a surface area of up to 300 square metres per gram. It can there­fore absorb up to five times its own weight of water and the nutri­ents dissolved therein (Source: SCHEUB/PIEPLOW/SCHMIDT, Terra Preta, 2015).

Untreated biochar does not yet have a soil-impro­ving effect. It must first be “charged” with nutri­ents and colo­nised by micro­or­ga­nisms. The “char­ging” of the biochar can be achieved by various processes such as compos­ting.

Posi­tive effects of biochar in soil

Improved storage capa­city for water and nutri­ents.
Lower nutrient and thus also nitrate leaching into ground­water.
Stable plant growth with lower crop fail­ures.
Acti­va­tion of soil life. Micro­or­ga­nisms find ideal habitat.
Less climate-dama­ging emis­sions such as nitrous oxide or ammonia.
Active climate protec­tion: The carbon bound in the biochar is stored in the soil for centu­ries.

Biochar as plant substrate

Trees and plants are indis­pensable for our well-being and climate. However, they are incre­a­singly exposed to special stress factors such as long periods of drought or heavy rain­fall. Urban trees also suffer from soil sealing and soil compac­tion in urban areas, which severely limits the avai­la­bi­lity of water and oxygen for the tree roots (Source: EMBREN, Plan­ting Urban Trees with Biochar, 2016).

As a result, trees in parti­cular have a signi­fi­cantly shorter lifespan and higher main­ten­ance costs, and an ever-incre­a­sing percen­tage of new plan­tings do not survive the first year. There­fore, attempts are gene­rally made to stimu­late the growth of urban trees through synthetic ferti­li­zers. In view of nega­tive conse­quences such as green­house gas emis­sions, acidi­fi­ca­tion, sali­ni­sa­tion and losses of soil carbon, more and more cities are looking for alter­na­tive stra­te­gies.

Some large cities such as Stock­holm (Sweden) or forestry enter­prises in Quebec (Canada) have there­fore swit­ched to plan­ting their trees in mixed substrates with biochar. The “green char­coal” is not only much more porous than sand or clay, it is also not biode­graded or compacted as quickly as peat, for example. The high poro­sity of biochar incre­ases gas exchange and water storage capa­city and ensures enhanced root pene­tra­tion thanks to its high permea­bi­lity.

Posi­tive effects of plant carbon as a plant substrate for trees
(Source: LANGE/ALLAIRE, Substrates contai­ning Biochar for White Spruce Produc­tion in Nursery, 2018)

Biochar improves root aera­tion, incre­ases the pH value and thus prevents root dise­ases.
It regu­lates the water content and supports the micro­bial life in the soil, which leads to incre­ased plant produc­ti­vity.
What’s more, biochar has a high water storage capa­city and acts as a struc­tu­ring compo­nent in soils and substrates.
What’s more, the use of biochar does not require addi­tional outlays – neither for tree nurse­ries nor refo­re­sta­tion projects – because the same tech­nical equip­ment is used as for the produc­tion of peat.