Biochar & Vineyards: Mimi Casteel, Claudia Kammann, Hans-Peter Schmidt and Antoine Lespès

Biochar as a climate mitigation tool?

In the ever-expanding ocean of sustainability technologies, you have undoubtedly heard the term biochar. Once relegated to fringe-conversations, biochar has now gained a strong foothold in mainstream academic and applied research, and its use is being studied for everything from climate change mitigation to restoration of soil carbon stores, recovery of soil structure, nutrient cycles and function, soil remediation and detoxification applications, bioenergy production, and more. Biochar is a specific form of charcoal produced through pyrolysis, which is the conversion of organic materials (biomass) under very high temperatures (greater than 500*C) to black carbon in the absence of oxygen. This form of Carbon is incredibly durable and resistant to decomposition that it can be a long-term storage form of Carbon in soils. The production techniques used in making biochar are commensurate with its potential benefits, and anyone considering biochar should become fluent in the best practices for its production. However, given the almost unfathomable sources of feedstocks, from animal manures to thinning of forest biomes for fire mitigation, to crop residues, biochar is a very exciting topic and its potential benefits in the climate crisis are myriad. For farmers and land managers, biochar is exciting for a number of reasons, which we will get into deeply today. Its alkalinity can naturally lower acidic soil pH, can help hold soluble positively charged cations like Calcium and Potassium, it can decrease soil bulk density in compacted soils, increase aggregation, aeration, reduce leaching, bind and sequester toxins, and perhaps most importantly (at least to me), biochar has an unparalleled potential in the campaign to rehydrate soils most at risk for desertification. I’ve seen this benefit myself, and I am really looking forward to exploring all of these topics with our panel of experts.


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