“Biochar may represent the single most important initiative for humanity’s environmental future. The biochar approach provides a uniquely powerful solution, for it allows us to address food security, the fuel crisis, and the climate problem, and all in an immensely practical manner. ”
Prof. Tim Flannery, Australian of the Year
Biochar is a type of charcoal, a carbon-rich material produced by burning biomass in the absence of oxygen - slow pyrolysis. (Image: Hans Erken)
Simple home-made biochar maker - the flame cap kiln. Design and Photo: Hans Erken
Boichar made in the the flame cap kiln. Design and Photo: Hans Erken
THE BENEFITS OF BIOCHAR
Biochar enhances soils and makes it more fertile. It also increases the capacity of the soil to sequester carbon.
When biochar is added into the soil it creates homes for microorganisms, increases the water holding capacity of soils, adsorbs nutrients, aerates soil, breaks up clay - healthier soil grows healthier plants that are more nutrient dense - so it's good for the environment and supports the growing of healthier food too.
Biochar production is inspired by the soils created by indigenous people in Amazon Basin - islands of rich, fertile soils called terra preta ("dark earth").
THE USES OF BIOCHAR
There are many uses for biochar - improving soil, sequestering carbon, fuel for cooking, heat for power generation. It is also useful in water filtration, insulation, energy storage and much more (read the link below - 55 Uses for Biochar). In this article they argue that Biochar so valuable that it should be used at least once before getting worked into the soil.
In the garden, Biochar can be scattered out but it's best mixed with compost or liquid fertilisers, and added into no-dig gardens, and covered with mulch.
How to activate your Biochar (Image: The Biochar Project)
About the workshop: I have been fascinated for some time with biochar and have wanted to learn how to make it. I've invited Hans Erken, a local biochar enthusiast innovator to lead a workshop with the Ethos Foundation to share with us what it's all about. He will explore:
what is biochar
the benefits of biochar
ways to use biochar in the garden
how can you use the energy created during biochar production
how do you make biochar while cooking
how do you make biochar on a small and medium scale
Making biochar in the flame cap kiln: Image and design: Hans Erken
Here are some photos from the workshop he ran in 2012. Biochar Workshop Images Meet Hans Erken and see a little bit of what you will learn in this 2 minute clip: