Fertilizers are often used to provide plants with essential nutrients, such as potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. While these nutrients are an important part of healthy growth, an excess of nitrogen can negatively affect plants by causing burns, which leads to wilting, discoloration, and diminished vitality.
Biochar is a great choice for your farm or garden because it enhances a plant’s ability to absorb nutrients in the soil, without the risk of burns. Biochar also improves soil health and is not associated with the same poor environmental effects as fertilizers.
In general, biochar has the potential to enhance nitrogen retention in soil through various mechanisms:
- Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC): Biochar can contribute to the soil’s CEC, which is its ability to retain and exchange positively charged ions, including ammonium (NH₄⁺) and other nutrient cations. This can help reduce nutrient leaching.
- Adsorption: Biochar has a high surface area and can adsorb ions, including nitrate (NO₃⁻) and ammonium, reducing their movement through the soil profile and making them more available to plants.
- Microbial Activity: Biochar can influence the soil microbial community. Some studies suggest that it can promote the activity of nitrogen-fixing bacteria and archaea, leading to increased nitrogen availability for plants.
- pH Regulation: Biochar may influence soil pH, which, in turn, can affect nitrogen transformations. However, the specific impact depends on the type of biochar and soil characteristics.
What Is Biochar?
Biochar is created by burning organic materials, such as wood waste, in an environment with little oxygen. This process creates a stable type of carbon that remains in the soil for an extended period of time, possibly even thousands of years. This longevity results from biochar’s slow rate of decomposition, which means the soil amendment can continue to offer benefits for many years after its initial application.
What Benefits Does It Offer Plants and Soil?
Using biochar in home gardens or commercial farms offers a variety of benefits, including:
- Improved soil structure for better drainage
- Greater retention of nutrients within the soil
- Enhanced airflow thanks to biochar’s porosity
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions due to carbon sequestration
- Increased resistance to common plant diseases
Biochar’s impressive effect on soil health ensures plants have what they need to remain vital. And unlike fertilizers, biochar does not contribute to environmental hazards. The chemicals in fertilizers can sometimes migrate to other environments or bodies of water, which contributes to pollution.
What’s the Difference Between Soil Amendments and Fertilizer?
Biochar is a soil amendment, which makes it quite different from fertilizer. Fertilizers contain nutrients, which are infused with the soil when the fertilizer is added. While biochar will not cause a negative reaction in plants, using fertilizers carries a significant risk of plant burns due to the presence of nitrogen.
On the other hand, biochar soil conditioner amends the structure of soil to enhance the strength and vitality of plants.
On its own, biochar contains no nutrients. However, its impressive absorption ability means it prevents nutrients already in the soil from being leached away. Similarly, biochar can also absorb toxins within the soil and stop them from causing ill effects.
Wakefield BioChar Improves Plant and Soil Health
When in search of solutions to improve soil health, Wakefield BioChar offers a wide range of products suited to both commercial and residential applications. Along with the positive effects these products have on plants and soil, they also help limit the impact of harmful greenhouse gases. Browse our site today to find the right product for your needs!