As simply as possible, biochar is charcoal used as a soil amendment.
How is it made?
Biomass is turned into biochar through pyrolysis (high temperature and absence of oxygen), rather than ash through combustion (high temperature and presence of oxygen). There are various ways to produce it, from low-tech to high-tech. We use an environmentally-friendly kiln called an Adam retort.
We produce biochar from cordwood using our steel Adam retort. We make approximately a yard of biochar from about 3/4 of a cord of wood each burn, which takes from 7 to 14 hours. The process is material, equipment, and labor intensive. The good news is that, unlike any other soil amendment (eg. compost, fertilizer, etc.), which needs to be reapplied annually, if not more often, biochar virtually lasts forever (hundreds to thousands of years). This is because of the extreme stability of its crystalline carbon matrix. It is not "used up" in the soil feeding the plant roots, and it does not break down, and it does not leach through the soil. Rather, it provides the perfect home for beneficial microbes and mycorrhizae (fungi "roots") that symbiotically enhance nutrient adsorption by plant roots. It has been proven to be arguably the best addition you can make to soil. Because we believe biochar can be a big part of the solution to agricultural and environmental challenges that our culture faces, we are making our biochar available at or below industry costs, at the rates listed below.
What does it do?
1) It increases soil fertility (by providing the perfect environment for beneficial microbes and increasing surface area for for plant root adsorption of nutrients), and increases soil moisture retention (like a sponge), thus increasing plant growth and productivity.
2) It breaks the carbon cycle by sequestering carbon in the ground (for thousands of years) and reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide, thus reversing climate change.