How Biochar Improves Organic Matter Biochar improves organic matter by boosting the soil’s nutrient retention capacity and reducing soil compaction. Organic matter in soil consists of plant residues and microbial biomass, active organic matter known as detritus, and stable organic matter known as humus. Reduced amounts of organic matter negatively impact soil health. Biochar results from heating organic materials at a high temperature in an oxygen-free environment, a process known as pyrolysis. It was first used thousands of years ago by the indigenous people of the Amazon Basin, who burned biomass and allowed it to smolder in the poor jungle soils. This process created terra preta, the black earth that remains incredibly fertile today. Learn how to buy the right biochar for your soil’s needs. Wakefield offers our premium biochar, as well as our compost and biochar mix to naturally increase microbial activity. Benefits of Biochar Biochar improves soil fertility and plant health, allowing plants to thrive and increasing crop yields. Using biochar in your garden or lawn reduces the need for fertilizer. Because biochar aids in water retention, less water is needed. Your plants flourish with less work! Those are the basic benefits of biochar. Here are some others, critical for both soil health and the environment: Carbon sequestration Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas responsible for global warming and subsequent climate change. Biochar sequesters carbon in the soil in a state that does not allow it to decompose and become CO2, keeping it out of the atmosphere. Once sequestered, the carbon remains in the soil for centuries. For every pound of biochar applied, two pounds of carbon dioxide are sequestered. Biochar also reduces the levels of other greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide. Enhanced soil structure Soil aggregates, the arrangement of soil particles around organic matter, are indicative of soil health and stability. These aggregates have large and small pores. The former accelerates water infiltration into soil while the latter helps to store water when rainfall is low. Compacted soils can resemble cement and have little in the way of pores. Biochar reduces soil compaction and improves soil structure. In sandy soils, the addition of biochar can decrease bulk density by 40 percent. Nutrient retention While biochar does not add any nutrients to the soil per se, this soil amendment helps the soil to retain nutrients and increase microbial activity so that plant roots can readily access them. Nutrients do not leach away because biochar contributes to improved soil structure. Biochar also enables soil to hold on to nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous, which are particularly vulnerable to runoff. Microbial Activity The use of biochar promotes beneficial microbial activity and helps build a thriving microbial community. Biochar is incredibly porous. Just one gram of biochar has a surface area of more than 350 square meters. It is biochar’s porous structure that provides an excellent habitat for microorganisms and fungi. Using Wakefield BioChar’s compost and biochar with mycorrhizal fungi will enhance the speed at which beneficial microbes can form colonies. Reduced Erosion Because biochar can enhance soil structure, it also reduces erosion. According to studies, biochar reduces runoff by up to 25 percent and erosion by 16 percent. Removal of Heavy Metal Pollutants When used in contaminated soils, biochar can remove heavy metal pollutants and other toxins. These toxins will no longer leach into your garden. What to Know Before Applying Biochar For the best results, apply biochar in the early spring. Apply only the recommended amount. There is no advantage in applying more biochar than necessary. How much biochar you will need depends on your soil’s current condition. Mix biochar into the soil and water the area sufficiently five to seven days prior to planting. For new garden plantings, mix biochar into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil. For new trees and shrubs, add enough biochar to make it 10 percent of the soil mix within the root zone. For new lawns, mix biochar into the top couple of inches of soil. For all types of plantings, add enough water over the next five to seven days to keep the soil moist. Once applied, biochar stays in the soil for centuries. Learn More from Wakefield BioChar You can learn more about biochar and its properties and uses at Wakefield BioChar. Not all biochar is the same. Much depends upon the type of biomass used in pyrolysis. Our biochar products are derived from virgin wood and sustainably processed.