Bio-char: the new frontier

Tom Miles

Introduction: Bio-char: the new frontier
Johannes Lehmann, Soil Biogeochemistry, Cornell University

Inspired by the fascinating properties of Terra Preta de Indio, bio-char is a soil amendment that has the potential to revolutionize concepts of soil management. While "discovered" may not be the right word, as bio-char (also called charcoal or biomass-derived black carbon) has been used in traditional agricultural practices as well as in modern horticulture, never before has evidence been accumulating that demonstrates so convincingly that bio-char has very specific and unique properties that make it stand out among the opportunities for sustainable soil management.

The benefits of bio-char rest on two pillars:
1- The extremely high affinity of nutrients to bio-char
2- The extremely high persistence of bio-char

These two properties (which are truly extraordinary - see details below) can be used effectively to address some of the most urgent environmental problems of our time:
1- Soil degradation and food insecurity
2- Water pollution from agro-chemicals
3- Climate change