Biochar - Meaning, Advantage, Disadvantage

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 27, 2022, 6:25

Biochar is a fine-grained, high-carbon residue created most often by advanced pyrolysis techniques (direct thermal decomposition of biomass in the absence of oxygen and preventing combustion). It makes a combination of solids (biochar), liquids (bio-oil), and gases (syngas) as a result of the process.

Advantages of Biochar

  • As a result of forest fires and previous soil management techniques, biochar may be found in soils all over the world. An in-depth investigation of biochar-rich dark piles of earth in the Amazon (terra preta) has resulted in a greater understanding of biochar's unique qualities as a soil enhancer.
  • In regions with severely depleted soils, few organic resources, insufficient water and chemical fertiliser supplies, biochar can be an effective tool for increasing crop productivity and agricultural diversification.
  • Biochar also enhances water quality and quantity by retaining nutrients and agrochemicals in the soil for plant and crop consumption. Instead of seeping into groundwater and producing pollution, more nutrients stay in the soil.
  • Biochar carbon is resistant to deterioration and may be used to store carbon in soils for hundreds to thousands of years.
  • Sustainable biochar techniques can yield oil and gas byproducts that can be utilised as fuel, giving clean, renewable energy in addition to soil enhancement. When biochar is used as a soil enhancer and buried in the ground, the system might turn "carbon negative."
  • By substituting fossil fuel consumption and sequestering carbon in stable soil carbon pools, biochar and bioenergy co-production can help prevent global climate change. It may also help to minimise nitrous oxide emissions.

Disadvantages of Biochar

  • Biochar, like charcoal, is a combustible substance that must be handled with caution. When exposed to air, chars become spontaneously combustible, which means they can self-heat and even ignite.
  • Dust is the most serious health hazard associated with biochar, as well as the most difficult aspect of its use in the field. Small char particles can irritate and cause lung damage when breathed in.
  • Another area of ambiguity is the methodology for incorporating biochar into the soil, particularly in low tillage or no-till operational processes.

Applications of Biochar

  • Carbon Sink: Large volumes of carbon dioxide and methane are released into the atmosphere when biomass is burned or naturally degraded. Biochar releases the same components into the atmosphere, but the carbon concentration is more stable. As a result, biochar allows for adequate carbon storage in the ground, potentially lowering atmospheric Greenhouse Gas (GHG) while improving soil fertility and agricultural output.
  • Soil Efficiency: Because biochar is porous, it retains both water and water-soluble nutrients, making it suitable for soil enrichment. Biochar is well-known for providing a variety of soil health advantages. As a result, it can improve water quality, minimise nutrient depletion, reduce soil acidity, and reduce irrigation and fertiliser needs.
  • Water Retention: Biochar is hydrophilic, which means it can absorb and hold water from the air. This makes it appropriate for use as a soil material in areas where water scarcity is widespread. Phosphate and nitrogen, which are essential for a plant's health, are preserved, resulting in healthier plants that use significantly less fertiliser.
  • Soil Conditioner: Biochar can be utilised as a soil conditioner and a container substrate amendment in agriculture and horticulture. It also has the potential to improve a variety of soil and substrate physical, chemical, and biological qualities.

Biochar can enhance the physical and chemical qualities of farming soils and substrates while lowering water and nutrient losses, resulting in economic savings.

Biochar may be created and prescribed for a certain crop, soil, or substrate since it is made using several manufacturing processes. It can be created from several plant-based ingredients, making it a viable local option.

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FAQs on Biochar

Q1. What is Biochar?

Biochar is biomass charcoal made from plant biomass.

Q2. Which techniques create biochar?

Pyrolysis techniques lead to the creation of biochar.

Q3. What are the byproducts of the biochar process?

Biochar, Bio-oil, and Syngas are the byproducts of the biochar process.

Q4. What are some applications for biochar?

Biochar can be used as a carbon sink and soil conditioner as well as for soil efficiency and water retention.