Understanding Biochar

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The broad definition of biochar is a carbon-rich product obtained when organic biomass, (such as manure, leaves, grasses, or in our Black Owl Biochar products, untreated forest debris—wood), is heated to the point of thermal decomposition under a limited or zero supply of oxygen. Physically biochar is charred, but it's different from coal, charcoal or ash, in that it possesses:
  • High surface area
  • Agricultural and environmental benefits
  • High organic carbon
  • The ability to offset GHGs 
Black Owl Biochar - In Good HandsThe many geo-physical-chemical-electrical characteristics of properly-made biochars differ depending primarily on feedstock, temperature and other processing techniques.  There are many different tiers of quality of biochars, but for several years it has been generally accepted that biochar can: 
  • Improve tilth of soils; creating greater aeration in heavy, complexing sandier soils
  • Retain nutrients & water, keeping them from leaching
  • Increase cation exchange functions in soil, boosting nutrient availability
  • Host microbes & fungi, increasing colonization in root zone, diversifying soil ecosystem
  • Act as a catalyst for releasing sorbed water as conditions dictate
  • Reduce off-gassing of Ch4, NO2 & other GHGs, mitigating escape into atmosphere
  • Increase pH & replace some liming requirements of acid soils
  • Reduce need for watering, as well-made biochar has great water-holding capacity
  • Accelerate the composting process, and help its aeration
  • Reduce or eliminate compost odors
  • Improve the quality and efficiacy of compost
  • Become a "carbon sink"

 

Garden with BiocharThe best of pure biochars do not replace nutrients required by plants, but they do make them increasingly bioavailable. Knowing nutrient requirements of plants is essential as knowing the soil profile. Composts need to be quality composts, without residual chemicals, plastic, odor, and not overly wet. A biochar-compost combo is synergistic.

 

Dr. Hugh McLaughlinIn the words of pioneer biochar researcher, Dr. Hugh McLauhglin, PhD/PE, and author of "All biochars are not created equal and how to tell them apart" (McLaughlin, et. al, 2009). At the risk of immodesty, our Black Owl Biochars have been deemed “exceptional” and have recognition for their quality. Dr. McLaughlin tested our biochars and gave us an A+ relative to other commercial biochars. For his lab results, click here. Our biochars are one the few that are OMRI-Listed (for Environmental Ultra Certification, click here and for our Ag/Hort Certificationclick here), which means, they have been tested for and found free of heavy metals that can plague other biochars, composts, and soils. 

 

Black Owl Biochar's Seed GerminationWe have also tested our Black Owl Biochar products for seed germination enhancement, and have had results of increase of 144% seed germination, verified and replicated by independent laboratory trials.  Furthermore, our products have been tested and found non-detectable for the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorobiphenols (PCBs).

 

OMRI ListedIf you want the best biochar, look for one with OMRI-Certificationhigh organic content, no detectable PAHs/PCBs and light in weight as quality of biochar is inversely related to weight.  A good biochar particle is very light, full of porosity, with a lot of surface area (many commercial biochars have a tenth the surface area that Black Owl Biochar has).  

 

Biochar Light In Weight Equals QualityBiochar with poundage beyond the teens per cubic foot indicates it either has high ash content or a lot of water. Our Black Owl Biochar Premium Organic for Agriculture and Horticulture weighs approximately 12 pounds per cubic foot and our Environmental Ultra weighs as little as 5 pounds per cubic foot (many other commercial biochars can weigh as much as 40 pounds per cubic foot. This is why it's recommended you buy by volume and not by weight. 

 

The International Biochar Initiative classifies biochars according to their organic carbon content as:
  • Class I>60%,
  • Class II>30%,
  • Class III > 10%
  • Biochar Supreme, LLC's Black Owl Biochars have no less than 70% oragnic carbon and our Environmental Ultra line is 80+% organic carbon. We have worked on the process to achieve this high standard at scale for 3 years. We offer state-of-the-art products. For application suggestions click here. For more information on our growing products, please click here. For more information on our environmental remediation products, please click here.
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