|Wednesday What's New: Black Gold Agriculture|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Wednesday, 23 November 2011|
What’s old is new, even when it comes to gardening. A while ago I posted about Aztec Gardening, today it’s an article I recently read about biochar, a potentially revolutionary way of enhancing soil fertility. It’s a gardening technique that was used by tribes people in the central Amazon basin at least 1500 years ago. Discovered by archaeologists several years ago, what’s “new” about it is its potential to revolutionize agriculture around the globe as well as for removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Biochar is charcoal derived from tree bark and bone. It was mixed with the soil to increase fertility. According to an article in Science News, scientists report that “…charcoal derived from heated biomass has an unprecedented ability to improve the fertility of soil -- one that surpasses compost, animal manure, and other well-known soil conditioners.” Biochar is a two for one deal it seems. Its high nutrient- and water-holding capabilities increase soil fertility and porous structure acts as a sink for greenhouse gases trapping them in the soil.
Unlike compost, manure and other organic forms of soil enrichment that decompose relatively quickly, biochar is fairly stable and remains in the soil for hundreds of years. As such its use could have a major impact on agriculture, particularly in parts of the world where chemical fertilizers, intense cultivation, and drought have significantly decreased soil fertility.
Photo source: www.biochar.org