Biochar Overview:
What it is, its benefits and opportunity to scale it globally

Biochar is a charcoal-like substance that’s made by heating organic waste (also called biomass) in an oxygen-limited environment.  It can be combined with organic matter and incorporated into soil to enhance its ability to grow food.  Many organizations around the world are training people on how to make and utilize biochar such as the International Biochar Initiative.  As well, there is a major initiative called Biochar Life by Warm Heart Worldwide that is underway to help smallholder farmers to receive payment for producing biochar. Therefore, small-holder farmers and rural schools that generate and utilize biochar can earn money from this biochar as well as grow more food. 

Since producing biochar from biomass and incorporating it into soil is an internationally recognized way of removing carbon from the atmosphere, substantial money can be earned by creating this biochar.  Even more beneficial than creating biochar is combining it with nutrients and utilizing it in soil.  For example, one study found that biochar combined with compost increased average crop yield by 40% compared with the control, which was compost without biochar.  There have been a wide range of studies completed about biochar that have documented its substantial benefits, especially when combined with other nutrients.  One notable discovery from this research is that the increase in crop yield is often even greater in the second and third year after adding this biochar to soil.
 
 
 
Zambia, Kaomao Region, 121 Farms,
Cornelissen, et al, 2013, Martinsen, et al., 2014.
 
Currently, a considerable amount of money is flowing into biochar initiatives and much more is expected.  For example, most of the carbon removal initiatives on an  international carbon trading platform called Puro Earth are related to biochar.   As well, there is a rapid growth of companies committing to Net Zero by 2040 or 2050, which will require many of them to buy carbon credits from platforms like Puro Earth to meet their Net Zero commitments.  For example, 21% of 2,000 of the world’s largest public companies, representing sales of nearly $14 trillion, now have Net Zero commitments by 2050.
Norwegian Research Council, G. Cornelissen, 2014. A. Cowrie, 2017
Now that the global carbon trading section (article 6) of the Paris agreement was agreed to in Glasgow at COP26, many billions of dollars can be expected to flow into this area.  To view information about this development, see this article by the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA): IETA welcomes Glasgow Climate Pact.
 
Over the last few decades, the global biochar community has grown substantially.  To view information about it, see: International Biochar Initiative.
 
To view more information about the opportunity to implement biochar on a global scale, see the information below along with the links provided:
 
Some quick facts about biochar:

    • It is a charcoal-like substance and is made by heating biomass in the range of about 300 to 800 deg. C in an oxygen-limited environment.
    • When added to soil, it remains in this soil for centuries.
    • It enhances soil to improve its food productivity
    • It makes crops more resilient to drought.
    • Making bio-char produces considerable surplus heat, which can be used in several ways including generating electricity and heating buildings.

Potential for implementing biochar on a global scale:

Enhancing the impact of biochar:

Organizations and technologies available to enable rapid global scale-up:

    • There is an international biochar organization with many chapters around the world.  To view its website, visit: International Biochar Initiative.
    • A whole ecosystem of manufacturers, suppliers and consultants relating to biochar exists. For example, see: US Biochar Suppliers and Manufacturers.
    • Can be combined with food security aid and girls’ education communities for broad-based global scale-up.

Substantial information is available about biochar technology and its benefits. For example, see:

a) Animated videos
 
b) Wide range of informational videos, documentaries and technical papers. For example, see:
i) Biochar: The Oldest New Thing You’ve Never Heard Of | Wae Nelson | TEDxOrlando.
ii) Amazon Soils & Biochar.
iii) How to make Biochar from locals in the Peruvian Amazon.
iv) The Promise of Biochar – one study showed about 880% increase in food production.
v) Biochar in Viticulture Webinar, Jan 14, 2022
vi) BioChar Related Information Resources by Woodgas International
vii) Benefits of BioChar by Char-Grow: Biochar the Grow Superhero
viii) The Ultimate Guide to Biochar: how to make it, how to use it, and why it’s important, Jul 5, 2020
ix) Video: The Promise of Biochar – Part 1 – adding biochar along with mineral fertilizer to some poor soil helped it grow 880% more food
x) Biochar in agriculture – A systematic review of 26 global meta-analyses, 2021 by Hans-Peter Schmidt, et al.
xi) A quantitative understanding of the role of co-composted biochar in plant growth using meta-analysis 2019 by Wang, et al.
xii) Review of Large-Scale Biochar Field-Trials for Soil Amendment and the Observed Influences on Crop Yield Variations, 2021 by Vijay, et al.
 
Some research papers about biochar and food security issues:

a) Biochar for future food security: An overview, June 2017
b) Making Biochar to Improve Food Security and the Environment,  Miles, T.
c) Biochar-based fertilizers for improved food and nutrition security

Manufactures of biochar can be paid the carbon capture and storage via carbon emissions trading marketplaces, such as the following:

a) Puro Earth (recently acquired by NASDAQ) – a B2B marketplace, standard and registry focused solely on carbon removals”.
b) Carbon TradeXchange
c) PowerNext – European Energy Exchange
d) Commodity Exchange Bratislava

Major international initiatives can support global production and utilization of biochar:

Since research has shown that girls’ education substantially reduces carbon emissions and this education can include training on biochar production and utilization, education initiatives can be very complementary to biochar initiatives.  Therefore, organizations facilitating climate-smart education are included in the list below:

a) United Nations Climate Change Global Innovation (UN-CCGI) Hub
b) List of international climate change initiatives
c) SME Climate Hub

There are several climate finance support centres around the world.  For example, given below are some based in Africa:

b) The Nigeria Climate Innovation Centre, Lagos, Nigeria
c) The Africa Sustainability Centre, Nairobi, Kenya and Bamako, Mali
d) The Climate Finance Knowledge Hub, Accra, Ghana

 

To learn more:

To learn more about biochar, get updates on events and technology, and communicate with those who believe in the importance of biochar, consider joining one of these forums. Forums are a great way to meet others in the field and network.

a) Biochar | Facebook
b) Biochar Will Change the World! | Facebook
c) r/Biochar | Reddit