Biochar – what is it and why is it so good for soils, trees and plants?

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Most of the soil and root treatments that Geo tree offers will include biochar.  The benefits of introducing this into the soil around trees include :

  • Improved soil aeration and drainage
  • Increased capacity for soil moisture retention
  • Provides a refuge for beneficial soil organisms including mycorrhizal fungi
  • Improves nutrient availability and uptake
  • Greater response to pest and disease
  • Takes carbon out of the atmosphere and sequesters it in the soil

So what is it and how does it work ?

Biochar is the term used to describe woody plant material that has undergone a heat treatment process called Pyrolisys.  This heat treatment turns plant matter into a stable product made of Carbon with a sponge-like open capillary structure.  It generally looks a bit like charcoal.  Like most good things in life it occurs naturally, although the biochar that Geo Tree uses is manufactured in Wales from biomass.

Once added into the soil it does not degrade for hundreds or even thousands of years which is part of the reason why single treatments can have very lasting benefits on soil and trees.  The open cellular structure of the parent material is retained and this means that Biochar is excellent in improving the structure and porosity of soils. This improves the movement of air through a soil and also water retention and drainage properties.

But that’s not all.  This open capillary structure becomes a perfect refuge for many beneficial micro-organisms, including mycorrhizal fungi, bacteria, nematodes and protozoa – all vital constituents of the soil food web.  The absence of these micro-organisms in degraded and compacted soils leads to poor health in trees and plants.

And, there’s more – Carbon in its pure state as Biochar has a cation exchange capacity which means that it attracts and holds other molecules without reacting with them. This reduces the loss of soluble mineral nutrients from the soil and increases the nutrient uptake of trees and plants.

If you need one final reason to use Biochar it might be this – By putting carbon, derived from responsibly sourced biomass, back into the soil you will be reducing the volume of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  Furthermore, healthy soils will continue to sequester carbon efficiently, whilst degraded soils can be a source of greenhouse gasses.