Growing in the Yukon? Try Biochar
For Peat's Sake!
Biochar is a carbon-rich material that significantly boosts organic matter content when used as a soil amendment or grow media. It is a black, solid material and particle sizes vary from powder to chunk. Biochar is naturally present in most soils, resulting from thousands of years of wildfire cycles. It is a form of organic matter of the most stable (recalcitrant) kind.
When purposefully added as an amendment or used as a grow media component, it increases productivity in a regenerative way. Because of its properties, biochar can replace or partly replace conventional materials such as peatmoss, coco coir, perlite, and vermiculite.
Biological boost | Protects against hydric stress | Increases productivity | Permanent and synergistic
Biochar is very porous and acts as a "reef" for microorganisms, protecting and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and fungi essential to plant growth. It excels at buffering humidity and provides structure, saving on watering needs and helping to drain as needed. Most importantly, biochar has a very high cation exchange capacity (CEC), meaning that it helps to hold nutrients and convey them to the plants.
Biochar provides great value as it’s a virtually permanent solution. While peatmoss may break down year over year, biochar is both stable and resistant to decay. Moreover, its presence has a catalytic effect on soil building, supporting sequestration of further carbon in the soil.
It’s an excellent choice for growing in the Yukon and will provide benefits to your operations for years to come. Recommended application rate typically is 5-10% v/v. See specific product for details.
Biochar is the result of the pyrolysis of biomass. This can be seen as “cooking” plant matter in a low oxygen environment in simpler terms. Biochar production (pyrolysis) is one of only 6 IPCC-recognized carbon-negative processes: instead of releasing carbon to the atmosphere as would happen with combustion or decay, pyrolysis traps it in solid biochar.
This process removes carbon from the atmospheric cycle and can contribute to the global objective of net-zero emissions by 2050 for climate regulation. The environmental footprint of biochar is generally much lower than more conventional soil amendments such as peatmoss, perlite, and vermiculite.
Turning Local Waste Into Carbon-Rich Biochar
Locally produced biochar made from local “waste” is great value. Waste such as firesmarting residues and slash which are typically burned (contributing to harmful smoke and carbon emissions) can actually be used as the “feedstock” to create biochar.
- The evidence of biochar as a permanent solution can be seen around the world. It has been held in soils for hundreds of years, as exemplified in the “terra preta” of the Amazon Basin and the “plaggen soils” of the Illinois Plains and Russia.
- For every 1 kg of biochar worked into your garden, you offset 13 km of automobile travel on average (USEPA, 2020. Greenhouse gas emissions from a typical passenger vehicle).
Some great resources to learn the benefits of biochar!
Allaire, SE and Lange, SF, 2017. Horticultural substrates containing biochar: performance and economy. Report. ULaval. 40 p.
Specific Weight and Particle Sizes
Typical values for specific weights of biochar are 5-20 lb/cu ft (135-540 lb/cu yd, or 80-320 kg/cu m).
For gardening applications, it is recmmended to use particle sizes 2-6 mm and smaller (< 2mm), whilst larger particles (> 6 mm) can be used in soil reclamation and large-scale agriculture.
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