The role of biochar
Biochar may look similar to charcoal. But when it goes to the production of the two. It is two entirely different processes. Biochar is made from a more controlled process called pyrolysis that uses very small amounts of oxygen.
This can be done on a small scale in your own backyard with homemade kiln systems built out of different size drums. There are also other ways to produce biochar in dug out pits in the ground. You can find more information on line and youtube as well when it comes to designing a system that will meet your size needs and budget.
Most commercial biochar manufacturers use agricultural waste and forestry materials that are organic. Not treated plywood and construction materials.Hardwoods is preferred in our experience.
Biochar consists of mainly 70 percent carbon. The remaining 30 percent consists of nitrogen,hydrogen and other elements. Because of the porous structure of biochar it is the perfect little hotel for microbes and nutrients to absorb into.
Besides improving your soils microbial properties it enhances electrical conductivity. It regulates nitrogen leaching from the soil. It reduces nitrous oxide emissions,decreases soil acidity. By increasing it's water retention and aggregation abilities all this contributes to enhanced soil structure.
Biochar can also be beneficial when added to compost piles. It helps slow and prevent the lose of nutrients off gassing in the breakdown process. Before applying biochar to your soil it is important to activate or charge it. If it is applied without doing so,because of it's porous structure it will absorb nutrients from your soil causing possible deficiency issues in your plants.
Some folks use worm castings tea to soak their char in. We have used budswell in the past which consist of bat guano. Some will even use their own urine for a nitrogen charge. There are many options to choose and experiment with.
We only use around a ten percent ratio to our soil blends when mixing. We don't recommend going much higher. Do so at your own risk. On a side note there are some out there that say that the benefits of biochar are of no significance in the soil. To that I ask...Do forest fires occur in nature? Lighting strikes etc? Why does the soil erupt with new green vegetation and life after a fire? Amazonian tribes and other indigenous cultures used biochar before it even had a name. Either by accident or on purpose..they were on to something.