What is BioChar?

Biochar is a highly porous stable Carbon-rich product resulting from charring of biomass (e.g.: agricultural & wood waste), that when mixed with organic compost and added to soils, yields considerable benefits.

What are the benefits of using EarthSpring BioChar?
  • Increases plant yield between 25% – 250% depending on starting soil conditions and what you’re planting (bolsters food security and enhances farmer’s revenue per acre)
  • Reduces watering needs up to 30% (makes soils much more drought-resistant)
  • Holds nutrients longer decreasing fertilizer requirements (prevents fertilizer leaching into watersheds)
  • Comes fully charges with billions of beneficial soil microbes (instantly enhances the fertility and health of your soils)
  • Increases soil permeability and aeration (helps reduce soil compaction)
  • Removes CO2 from the atmosphere and converts that CO2 into Carbon for the soil
  • Suppresses methane emissions and reduces nitrous oxide emitted from soils (helps remove harmful Greenhouse Gasses from the air we breathe)
  • Reduces amount of biomass waste sent to landfills further reducing methane emissions from those landfills
What is BioChar made from?

While EarthSpring Biochar is made from 100% recycled hardwood waste, any suitable woody biomass can be utilized as the feed stock, such as; nut shells, wood chips, coconut hulls, palm fronds and most agricultural waste works as well; corn stalks, cotton stalks, seeds, cherry pits, etc.

What happens in the soil that makes EarthSpring BioChar so beneficial?

BioChar benefits the soil in so many ways, entire research papers and books have been dedicated to this topic. However, in short, BioChar is a permanent soil amendment that works in concert with the soil, acting as an important part of a team effort. BioChar improves how the soil functions as the host medium, providing a perfect environment for billions of beneficial microbes, the base of the soil food web. Its structure promotes soil permeability and helps reduce soil compaction – especially important for soils containing clay. BioChar also contains “mobile” and “resident” organic portions, making Biochar a “soil catalyst”. It also helps mitigate many of the soil’s physical deficiencies, and helps hold onto nutrients from washing away easily – especially crucial in sandy soils. BioChar also retains moisture, helping soils become more drought-resistant. BioChar helps restores the soil to its natural biological role, synergistically participating in microbial cycling of minerals, allowing the ecosystem to effectively let plants to make their own food!

How much EarthSpring BioChar should I apply?

You’d think it would be easy to tell you how much BioChar to use. Really how complicated can it be? Well for those that want a quick and general rule, apply a one inch deep layer and till it into your soil. A 5 gallon bag should cover 10-12 square feet. Easy enough?

The optimal application rate is a tad more complicated and is currently awaiting definitive research. Here’s why: ‘All Biochar Is Not Created Equal’ (see Whitepaper with same name in RESOURCES tab). Biochar is made from all sorts of different feedstock and it’s made in a variety of ways, both of which make the characteristics of the end product differ. Another huge variable is your soil type. Believe it or not, not all soils are the same! The good news is that BioChar works best in soils that are depleted, compacted, sandy, clay, toxic or just plain crappy. Not surprisingly then, this makes it rather tough to give you a “one-size-fits all” answer. Most research suggests adding 10% – 20% of BioChar by volume to your topsoil (i.e. ½” – 1” layer) with the poorer soils getting a heavier dose.

Why can’t I just apply pure char (like charcoal) directly to my soil? Or, why do you recommend blended BioChar like EarthSpring, over raw char?

Pure char added to soils will actually out-compete your plants for available nutrients and water, likely causing them to die in the first season. That’s because it’s highly porous structure, hungry to fill in its pores, will absorb nutrients and water from surrounding plants and soil. So it’s best to utilize BioChar instead, which has been already “charged” with billions of beneficial soil microbes – the ‘base of the soil food web’, instantly enhancing the fertility and health of your soils!

EarthSpring Biochar is a 50/50 blend by volume of Char and Organic Compost. Our organic compost is created from discarded produce from local super markets mixed with yard and wood waste, turned and aged for at least 90 days before being ready for use. We allow the 50/50 blend of Char and Organic Compost to sit together for at least 30 days, ensuring the porosity of the char adsorbs all the available microbes and beneficial nutrients.

How long does BioChar last in the soil?

Scientists have shown that the stable portion persists in soils anywhere from several hundred to several thousands of years. Archaeologists have found large BioChar deposits in Brazil’s Amazon Basin (called ‘Terra Preta’ in Portuguese, literally meaning “black earth”) that have been carbon-dated to 450 B.C. which are still super fertile! That’s a 2,500 year lifespan – practically immortal!

Why is BioChar better than Compost?

To be added.

Why not simply use more fertilizer?

Petroleum based NPK fertilizers provide readily available Nitrogen, Phosporus and (K)potassium derived from non renewable resources (e.g. – fossil fuel-based).  These fertilizers readily run off into watersheds causing wide spread damage such as harmful Algae Blooms which result in “dead zones”, like the one in the Gulf of Mexico (http://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife/topics/deadzone/index.html). Other chemical properties of NPK fertilizers destroy the natural ecosystem in the soil.

Isn’t Biochar just an expensive fertilizer?

NPK fertilzers do share the ability to nourish plants with BIOCHAR.  However, Earthspring Biochar is an 100% organic soil catalyst which provides nutrients and changes the physical makeup of the soil providing drought resistance and revitalizing the natural ecosystem in the soil.  The key distinction is the long term benefits of Biochar which remains an active catalyst for decades after being introduced into your soils, which means the higher initial cost of EarthSpring BioChar is offset because it will be an effective catalyst for DECADES! This directly translates into healthier soil with much less work (only a one-time application required), no waste and no damage to our environment.

Why not make my own?

Why not? To fully understand the fundamental concepts and safety considerations of small-scale BioChar production, the experimenter is directed to ‘The Biochar Revolution’ book, chapter 9 (available on the Products page). There are important safety considerations for constructing and properly operating kiln devices involving fire, heat, and very hot gases – and doing do in an environmentally responsible way. Also, keep in mind that char is highly combustible, and when re-exposed to oxygen can auto-ignite up to several days later.

What effects will BioChar have on my soil’s pH?

First off, you will need to get your soil tested to determine its current pH. Many Universities have the ability to analyze your soil nutrient level and pH, and these tests are generally inexpensive when compared to your investment in plants, amendment costs, time and effort. Once you’ve gotten those lab results in hand, please keep in mind that different plants have differing pH and nutrient requirements, so you’ll want to research that information pertinent to the plants you desire to grow.

Many BioChars have an alkaline pH, (like adding lime) which could elevate soil pH levels – and for many soils this is a good thing. However, you may want to have your soil tested beforehand, to take the guesswork out of maintaining your soil in optimum condition for plant growth and development.

What is the difference between adsorption and absorption?

The difference between adsorption and absorption is that adsorption is the attraction between the outer surface of a solid particle and a contaminant, whereas absorption is the uptake of the contaminant into the physical structure of the solid. With respect to soil dynamics, adsorption capacity of BioChar contributes the most to its moisture retention characteristics, as well as its ability to buffer soluble organic compounds.

Are there any special handling precautions for BioChar use/ storage?

As with any material, handling precautions for BioChar should include:

  • Always wear ventilation masks and adequate skin cover while handling BioChar
  • The use of gloves is recommended, that are suited for the organic fertilizers you are using
  • Always wash hands thoroughly after handling BioChar
  • Biochar should be kept away from children and stored out of reach of direct sunlight or frost. Store BioChar in a cool dry place with plenty of air circulation (the microbes need to breathe)
  • Properly label each bag of BioChar with the date of purchase and use oldest product first
Where can I find more technical information on BioChar?

See our Resources section

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