Geoecology Energy Organization (GEO)

View more presentations from Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy.

The charcoal use by communities for various purposes is found almost all parts of the world. Majority of this charcoal reached the soil ultimately and with value addition in the process of usage. Biocharculture helps is understanding these processes.

Good Stoves and Biochar Communities (GSBC) Project - Supported by, France, implemented by GEO


BIOCHAR is being used mainly with focus on Agriculture. Before it reaches the soil ultimately, it can be used for many purposes and in the process its value enhances. The Terrapreta was originally a culture in the Amazon, unless we adapt biochar as as culture or "BIOCHARCULTURE" it will not be sustainably adopted and appreciated by communities. At GEO we are using Biochar for different applications as mentioned in this chart. In some countries as part of culture biochar is an important component even today. For details of various applications see BIOCHAR INDIA

During interactions with communities, experiments, field trials, discovering traditional practices in parts of India and in capacity development programs on Biochar, the scope of Biochar has expanded. BIOCHAR term is being used mainly with focus on soil / Agriculture and as well as a carbon sequestration. Biochar has a cultural value in India, like Agriculture, Vermiculture, etc, so it is convenient to explain Biochar as a new product, where as it had been "Biocharculture". The Terrapreta was originally a culture in the Amazon, without being Terrapretaculture as part of Agriculture the good practice would not have been spread covering such large areas. Biochar when it was produced it is called Charcoal (the source and temperature at which it is produced is important), once one has intention to apply as a component for amendment of soils it is Biochar. But whether Biochar reaches directly to the soil from source with direct intention / ultimately or indirectly reaches the soil after use as a secondary product it is Biochar. In parts of India as observed, the Biochar is being used knowingly / unknowingly over centuries. The Biochar use as traditional / cultural practice is there since centuries for various uses including Agriculture. Probably the soils in India remained mostly fertile due to other practices, so there was not much need to apply charcoal in large proportions. Whether the soils are fertile or infertile the Biochar presence in the soils always did only good. This aspect as experienced by farmers made them use it if available. The pottery shards from their use of pottery items also added value, in Indian fields (of more than 100 years old) pieces of pottery shards are common to find which also are part of daily life and culture. Most often the Biochar plus other components like pottery shards, bones even after many uses reaches the field / soil, especially in rural areas. The value of Biochar for application is higher when it reaches the field after its use. The multiple and ultimate use of Biochar as "BIOCHARCULTURE" makes it sustainable, adaptable by communities. Biochar is not an industrial product?! Although many terms have emerged recently to explain the Biochar commercial products by different names. Biochar was not a commercial product in the past and always had more than one value before reaching the fields for improving the soil environment and as well ultimately carbon sequestration too.

Biochar use in the old world is mostly a cultural or traditional practice. Probably Japanese are still using Bamboo charcoal in many ways. Biochar is not some thing suddenly we have innovated, we need to discover its use and also innovate new uses. All farmers can adopt and one need not be in a hurry to apply large quantities in a go to have bumper yield or crop, the annual incremental application would be more sustainable for the farmer as well for the environment.


Biochar Production and Uses is the presentation to discover the uses of Biochar as soil amendment and other uses.


From Magh Biochar Retort 2

Magh Bichar retort - 1 is a simple low-cost biochar making retort. In this design a two hundred liter steel drum is used. The top and bottom portions of the drum were cut open. One of the lids is used for covering the open side. The biomass is dumped into the drum and lit at the top and more biomass is added while it is still lit to fill it up to the brim. In TLUD condition the flame continuous. After some time the intensity of the flames lessen. Now the lid is placed over the flames and using soil the lid is sealed, so that no smoke is seen leaking out. Now the smoke appears at the pipe, which is attached through a connecting pit at the bottom of the drum. Leave it for more than 12 hours. The biochar continues to form and also the retort cools down. This second situation is the downdraft condition.

Note: Precaution should be taken to keep oneself as far as possible from the flames. The efficient production of the biochar also depends on the producers experience. For more details see

Magh Biochar Retort is demonstrated to the community under the GSBC Project. GEO is implementing the project with support of GoodPlanet, France.



Biochar / charcoal can be used for tapping the Nitrogen and other useful elements. Simple urinals are designed for tapping the nitrogen and other useful elements for using as a soil amending material for improving the quality of the soils, increasing crop production, addressing the global warming by reducing the NOx emissions, avoiding artificial fertilizers, keeping the toilets clean and odor free, etc.

Two sets of prototype Urinals - PVC urinal and Clay pot urinal are designed and being used by GEO.


Munda tribals living in parts of Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal states, in India, use biochar for increasing the crop production. They mix charcoal with farm yard manure (pellets of small ruminants / cattle dung) and add to the red lateritic soils which are other wise less fertile. They cultivate vegetables and green salad in the well fenced plots of about 1 acre in size. The biochar is mostly a byproduct from the biomass cook stoves in use (most often three stone stoves / simple clay earth stoves). They have access to wood from the jungles, which is used as fuel.

For more details see the photos

and a small video film.
Latitude: 21.9722721074 Longitude : 85.2820737194

For more pictures see


Regarding impact of Pottery shards in the soil there were several questions. I had been searching for pottery shards in the agricultural fields and most often and I got to see some pottery shards in the field. Where ever agriculture was the main livelihood, high densities of populations existence, civilization at the helm and space was a constraint, innovations were adopted by humans, and such practices are sustainable even now.
For more photographs and relevant links see

The charcoal and pottery shards are the two most common by-products of human habitats. At least some charcoal / biochar along with ash was contributed by the people living in habitations in the past (see table in the above link). The availability of the quantity of such by-product, ingenious use, management and development are the aspects still to be discovered. If charcoal / pottery shards did not occur in certain areas in spite of human settlements existence, than there must be some reason yet to be discovered. But both charcoal and pottery existence as a result of human activities was beyond history, so there is no reason why these things are not seen.

The fired pottery made up of clay is most popular. Still the poor people in rural villages in parts of India cook in the clay pots. The pots used for drinking water collection is most common, even today millions of pots are produced and used all over India every year, the usage would be more especially during summers. The evaporation of the water from the fine pores of the pot cool the water inside the pot. The temperature would be at least 5 deg centigrade less than the surrounding air temp. The cooling effects would be very high under less relative humidity conditions. The roofs made up of clay tiles also provide cool shelter, and very much useful in the tropics where temperatures are very high during summers. For majority of the main festivals pots or pottery items are used. From Birth to death, for all important occasions pottery items are used.

Terra Preta and Ants - Rooftop Experiments
Dr. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, India, December 13, 2007

Dear All,
After the successful field trials in Alkaline soils , I have just started second season TP experiments on a small scale on our Roof top in small pots The charcoal is exclusively from use of Magh-1 woodgas or smoke burner stove designed by me. I would like to share some of my immediate observations.


Alkaline Soils - Terra Preta
N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy, Update June 26, 2007
[img_assist|nid=383|title=Alkaline Soil, India|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=200|height=146]



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