[permaculture] Biochar

John D'hondt dhondt at eircom.net
Fri Nov 18 14:51:54 EST 2011

Hear, hear,

> My objection is that we can use a given biomass only once: we either 
> return it to the soil to maintain humus and feed the microbes and other 
> soil organism or we turn it into charcoal.
> Humus is capable of providing both the living environment and the food for 
> microbes.  There is no reason to assume that the microbes and other soil 
> organisms in my soil would suddenly want prefabricated charcoal “apartment 
> buildings” after having evolved without them for billions of years.
> I live in a semi-arid climate on heavy clay soil.  The positive effect on 
> fertility of adding biomass to the soil is immediately visible.  According 
> to a figure I came across recently, there can be 10 tons or more of soil 
> organisms in 1 hectare of rich soil.  These organisms need to be fed!  I 
> return every ounce of biomass available in my place to the soil.  To turn 
> biomass into charcoal would reduce the food I can provide to the soil 
> organisms.
> The last 100 years have seen an unprecedented destruction of biomass. 
> Many of our environmental, health and other problems can be directly or 
> indirectly traced back to this destruction of biomass.  Not aware of the 
> importance of biomass for maintaining humus and soil fertility, the public 
> is likely to favor any plan to destroy even more biomass - considered a 
> waste by most – that, like biochar or biofuel, promises a quick fix to our 
> environmental problems and allows us to continue the wasteful lifestyle 
> made possible by industrial methods.
> On a global scale it doesn’t matter if someone wants to try out charcoal 
> in his backyard.  However, to have the effect on global warming that is 
> claimed by biochar advocates, we need to turn biomass into charcoal on a 
> large scale.  Added to the destruction that is already ongoing and the 
> devastation caused by biofuel production, this will greatly reduce the 
> future prospects for organic farming, which relies on feeding the soil 
> with biomass.
> Dieter
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