Biochar

I often give talks about Biochar- and hand out free bags of Biochar that I make in a 45-gallon kiln. These are the instructions I hand out with these bags.

BIOCHAR for Vegetable gardens.

Biochar is basically charcoal that is made from organic matter. In gardens, it is a safe home for bacteria and other beneficial microbes. These then multiply and extract more nutrients from the organic soil and make this available to the plants roots.

The amount of biochar in this bag is sufficient for treating 40 square feet or one raised bed 10 feet long by 4 feet wide.

First, the biochar needs to be crushed as small as possible. This can easily be done by squeezing some in the hands or, (a much cleaner way) by using a hammer. The next step is to inoculate it with compost or manure tea. Do this by soaking it in 1 gallon of the tea. Then spread the whole bag over the garden and then rake or fork it into the top 4 inches of the soil. Another method is to mix the whole bag with about three 5 gallon pails of good compost and then spreading this mixture over the garden about 1 inch deep. Then rake or fork this into the top 4 inches of the soil.

This is best done before sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings.

Biochar is not a fertilizer but used in an organic garden it will give you better yields and much better-tasting crops. Treat your whole vegetable garden once a year.

Do not use any chemical fertilizer as this will kill many of the beneficial bacteria in the soil, and without these bacteria, your plants will have far fewer nutrients when they are harvested.

Ken Bourne

Here is another article I wrote in the local paper, aimed at some of the local mines and other businesses.

The Benefits of Biochar

The fact that biochar helps to retain moisture in a known fact! The benefits of biochar as an agricultural amendment are ancient history,e.g. terra preta. What we need is for some brave scientist, who is not funded by international chemical companies, to start telling the truth.
The world is inundated with problems that politicians are reluctant to cure. Waste, pollution, water shortage, food shortage, diseases and other chronic health problems, and worldwide unemployment.Power is also a massive problem especially where nuclear energy is concerned. Most of these have been caused, in my opinion, by over application of chemicals which reduces the number of nutrients in food, and the products obtained from oil.
All of these problems can be reduced, if not eliminate biochar and organic food production. All organic waste can be turned into biochar. So can sewage, farm manure, waste from sawmills and farms, forestry waste(slash piles) and the millions of trees that are dying from the ravages of the pine beetle. Sewage would not pollute the oceans and our water would be filtered by the charcoal in agricultural and forestry soil. Chemical farmers must change over to organic farming and the large monoculture farms split up and returned back to family intensive farms. This would eliminate the food shortages as the food produced would be nutrient rich so that the consumption would be reduced considerably as, for example, one apple would contain the same nutrients as 5 of todays! (This would be the same as the nutrient value of food 60 years ago.) There would be far more available jobs, power would be created from the heat of creating the biochar, and the resulting bio-oils and gasses can be used for vehicular power instead of oil and natural gas. the actual process of making biochar creates more power than is used. Organic food production results in more food per acre than chemical farming and restores the top soil that farmers have nearly eliminated. This would also reduce the number of diseases that are caused by our immune systems being compromised, and the associated health problems of obesity. (Good food would taste so good that children would eat it!)

Making Biochar

This is how I make my own Biochar. I have made the stove from some old 45-gallon barrels.
bio-char stove 003

This is a top-lit-up-draft stove. This means that fire is started at the top, as shown, and the bottom of the barrel has about 20 holes drilled so that the air is drawn up to the fire.
bio-char stove 007

An “after-burner” is put on top when the fire is burning well. This afterburner will burn the gasses that are produced when the organic matter is heated.
bio-char stove 013

A chimney is then added and the smoke will soon disappear as the heat increases.
bio-char stove 020

This is the result after about 45 minutes.