What is Biochar

Biochar is a combination of words “biomass” and “charcoal”. This word has entered the world scientific literature since the twentieth century, although its use dates back to the years before the discovery of the Americas (up to five hundred years ago). It is solid and rich in carbon that can hold the carbon for thousands of years. Biochar contains carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur and ash in various amounts. Biochar production is an effective way to manage waste.


The importance of biochar in agriculture has only recently been rediscovered. Long before the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus, indigenous tribes in the Amazon and specifically in the Terra Perta region used a technique to increase the fertility of their land. It is certain that they had no knowledge of chemistry and biology and had found this method by trial and error. Their technique involved burning agricultural waste, while covering it with soil and actually burning crop residues under anaerobic conditions.

Experiments on these soils have led to the conclusion that these soils are highly fertile and this combination has been able to dramatically increase the quality and quantity of the crop and has also greatly improved the combined structure of the soil and water. The important point to note is that the soils of the Terra Perta region are still rich over the centuries and have maintained their fertility quality. The study and research on these soils has increased dramatically in the last century due to its short-term and long-term benefits and characteristics.

Between 2005 and 2012 more than a thousand scientific articles using the word biochar were registered in the ISI database. Research on this compound is still ongoing.

Biochar Production

Today, biochar is produced by the modernized “pyrolysis” process. Pyrolysis is a Greek word that is a combination of the two words “pyro” meaning fire and “lysis” meaning separation. The operation of this process is that wood or agricultural waste is heated in a high-temperature furnace (at least 350 degrees) in the absence or extremely small amounts of oxygen.

The quality of the biochar directly depends on the amount of heat in the furnace as well as the heating time. What is produced by this process (pyrolysis) is a type of charcoal or activated carbon called biochar. Due to its low decomposition rate compared to other organic matter, it has a large capacity to reduce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane released from agricultural wastes and can store carbon for long periods.

Why Using Biochar

Biochar can increase fertilizer efficiency and also reduce production costs and biological pollution. Biochar improves soil fertility and increases its fertility. This type of fertilizer increases agricultural products and can protect plants against some plant diseases. The effective life span of this rich material and the stability of soil structural quality in the long run, is an important feature of Biochar. Biochar has the potential for food recycling, soil conditioning, economic efficiency, waste management, and is a long-term factor for economical and safe carbon sequestration.

Studies show that the use of biochar in plants that need more potassium fertilizers and higher PH can increase the function. Other beneficial effects of biochar application in agricultural soils include increasing organic matter, improving soil water retention, increasing cation exchange capacity and interacting with the soil nutrient cycle by modifying soil PH and reducing nutrient leaching, as well as reducing the need for irrigation and fertiliser needs. High specific surface area and structure of functional groups make Biochar able to absorb and inactivate heavy soil elements.

From the perspective of agriculture, one of the benefits of biochar is the management of agricultural waste. The expanding of organic agriculture on the one hand and air pollution on the other hand has led to the everyday increasing use of this compound in the world day by day. The fertile soils of Terra Perta in Brazil are the result of the use of biochar for over a thousand years. In Japan, this technique (using half-burned agricultural waste) has also been used and has been revived in recent years. Other countries are gradually becoming interested in using this traditional and effective method, and the use of biochar will become a revived method for agriculture in the future.

Helping to preserve environment

Combustion and decomposition of biological residues and organic compounds release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere. Biochar is a stable Carbon that can store large amounts of greenhouse gases for a long time (centuries) and thus control the levels of greenhouse gases. Scientific researches show that the application of moderate biochar can reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (N2O) by up to 80% and methane by up to 100%.

Both gases are air pollutants and greenhouse gases. Biochar can cause carbon sequestration in soil for thousands of years (carbon sequestration means deposition and discharge of carbon into the atmosphere, in other words, the uptake of excess atmospheric carbon dioxide by plant aerial and underground organs, plant debris and algae to reduce the harmful effects of global warming).

For more information about features and benefits of Biochar please see this page: Features and Benefits of Biochar