Biochar

 

Relevancy

  • GS Prelims, GS Mains paper
  • Biochar, Biosequestration
  • Carbon level reductions

Biochar

  • Biocharis form of charcoal used as a technique for soil amendment
  • Biochar is found in soils around the world as a result of vegetation fires and historic soil management practices.
  • Also it is extremely porous in nature.
  • Biochar is highly potent in nature as its life is more than thousands of years.
  • It is derived from extremely fertile Terra preta soils of the Amazon Basin.

Biosequestration

  • Biosequestration is the capture and storage of the atmospheric greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by biological processes.
  • It is a key policy concept in the climate change mitigation.
  • It does not generally refer to the sequestering of carbon dioxide in oceans or rock formations, depleted oil or gas reservoirs deep saline aquifers, etc.

Properties of Biochar

  • Biochar is a stable solid.
  • It is rich in carbon, and can endure in soil for thousands of years.
  • Biochar is made up from biomassvia pyrolysis.
    • Pyrolysisis a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen or any halogen gas.

Potentials of Biochar

  • Carbon level reduction:
    • Biochar can sequester carbon in the soil for thousand or more years, like coal.
    • This is a carbon-negative technology would lead to a net withdrawal of CO2 from the atmosphere.
    • It will result into climate changevia carbon sequestration.
  • Soil amendment:
    • Biochar can increase soil fertilityof acidic soils (low pH soils), increase agricultural productivity, and provide protection against some foliar and soil-borne diseases.
    • If biochar is returned to agricultural land it can increase the soil’s carbon content permanently.
    • It is also suitable as a habitat for beneficial microorganisms.
  • Slash and char:
    • Results have shown that turning from slash-and-burn to slash-and-char farming techniques in Brazil decreased both deforestation of the Amazon basin and carbon dioxide emission.
    • Slash-and-burn leaves only 3% of the carbon from the organic material in the soil while Slash-and-char can keep up to 50% of the carbon in a highly stable form.
  • Water retention in soil:
    • Biochar also improves water quality and quantity by increasing soil retention of nutrients and agrochemicals for plant and crop utilization.
    • More nutrients stay in the soil instead of leaching into groundwater and causing pollution.
  • Energy production:
    • It can be directly substituted for any application that uses coal.
    • Alternatively it can be used to produce bio-oil and syngas.

Conclusion

  • Current biochar projects make no significant impact on the overall global carbon budget.
  • Although expansion of this technique has been advocated as a geoengineering
  • Potentially, the bioenergy industry might even be made to sequester net carbon if biomass is pyrolyzed to biochar and put back into the soil, rather than being completely burned.

 

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