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BIOCHAR &

Organic

Agriculture

By: Jeff Schahczenski, NCAT/ATTRA

Thanks to Wikipedia we can

now more easily understand

the meaning of “movements”.

To paraphrase these definitions,

a movement is a set of diverse

scientific, social, economic,

technological and political

topics and activities surrounding

a common theme or issue.

After lurking in the world of

biochar for many years, I feel

confident in saying that biochar

is a movement.

But what

is biochar?

The range of topics and

issues surrounding biochar are

immense and unwieldly. If you

don’t believe me, just check out

the 2015 second edition of the book,

Biochar for Environmental Management:

Science: science, technology and implementation,

edited by Biochar leaders

Johannes Lehmann and Stephen Joseph.

Biochar

Definition

Minimum

C Content

Section 14513.5 of CA

Department of Food and

Agriculture’s code:

“Biochar” means materials

derived from thermochemical

conversion of biomass

in an oxygen-limited

environment containing at

least 60 percent carbon.

At least 60 percent carbon.

This 928 page tome is only the tip of

the iceberg on the many, many topics

related to biochar. To try and keep up

with this monster of a subject, join the

many listserves and website related to

the International Biochar Initiative, IBI.

“Biochar: A solid material

obtained from

thermo-chemical

conversion of biomass in

an oxygen-limited

environment.”

The organic carbon content

of biochar must be higher

than 10% of the dry mass

(DM). Biochar materials are

divided into 3 grades

based on increasing

organic carbon content.

Biochar is here defined as a

charcoal-like substance

that is pyrolysed from

sustainable obtained

biomass under controlled

conditions and which is

used for any purpose

which does not involve its

rapid mineralization to

CO2.

Pyrolysis

The biochar's carbon

content must be higher

than 50% of the dry mass

(DM). Pyrolysed organic

matter with a carbon

content lower than 50%

are classified as Bio-Carbon-Minerals

(BCM).

But what is this movement—inspiring

miraculous substance called

biochar? Why might it be important to

sustainable and organic agriculture?

The type of feedstock,

and the time and

temperature of pyrolysis

influence biochar

characteristics.

Photo courtesy of

International Biochar

Initiative.

14

Organic Famer August/September 2018

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