"Biochar" or plant debris carbonized by a pyrolysis technique, reputedly based on "ancient charcoal processes", is being touted as "carbon neutral", used for beneficial soil effects, and rated as a means of CO2-carbon sequestration. Woods End has undertaken a variety of plant growth and soil chemistry studies, some of which will appear in a national magazine that has been following biochar developments on the home garden scene.
Initial lab findings have raised a variety of questions, however. Variable and some negative results appear as soil dosages increase – possibly due to extreme high pH, salinity and especially high potash. Are sometimes poor plant results attributable to these factors in Biochar, and if so why no warnings to date? Terra Preta soils are reported to be very dark with high apparent carbon content, but were formed over hundreds if not thousands of years. Will short term biochar treatment yield short-term harmful effects? Is the soil-carbon value offset by the high energy required to pyrolize? Further studies underway at Woods End will measure soil salinity, pH, potassium and alkalinity effects,and seek to determine if plant roots are physically harmed by Bio-char or if an indirect effect is causing poor performance.