Letter: Biochar offers many environmental benefits

Widespread use of biochar as a soil amendment can reduce carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Biochar is biomass that has been heated without oxygen. This is called pyrolysis. The heated biomass looks like charcoal, but unlike charcoal, it has not been burned. It can be applied to the soil with existing machinery and fertilizer equipment.

Extensive research has been done with biochar. Iowa State University is a leader in biochar research. So is Cornell University in New York. The International and U.S. Biochar Initiative organizations are great biochar information resources.

There are many benefits to biochar if produced and used properly. Biochar builds the soil. It lasts for years. After several applications, it can replace the use of nitrogen as a fertilizer. It reduces nitrogen runoff into rivers. It cleans up water that cities use for drinking water. Plants grow better. It increases production, especially on poorer soils. It helps hold moisture. It increases the possibility for profit. But most important of all, it sequesters carbon. It reduces greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. We must prevent greenhouse gasses from going into the atmosphere, but we must also reduce the greenhouse gasses that are already there. There are few practical things that can be done to help prevent an unliveable climate from developing. This is a major one.

There are 100 million acres of farmland in the world that biochar could make into a carbon sink.

Harold Hensel

Cedar Rapids


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