In our biochar FAQ you will find the most frequently asked questions about biochar and vegetable charcoal, which we will be happy to answer. If your question is not there, please ask us directly!
GENERAL INFORMATION ON BIOCHAR
Biochar is a pure natural substance, which is produced by the thermal carbonization (pyrolysis) of biomass such as untreated wood, hedge or green cuttings as well as other residual biomass. Due to its porous structure and its huge inner surface, it can store water and nutrients and bind pollutants. In addition, around half of the carbon in the starting material remains bound. These properties make them a great all-around material that can play an important role in agriculture, industry, water and climate protection, in municipalities and in building construction.
Biochar is made through a process called “pyrolysis”. The biomass is thermally treated at high temperatures, usually between 400 and 750 °C, sometimes, up to 900 °C, and with extensive exclusion of atmospheric oxygen. This can be done on a large scale in large industrial plants, in which case the gases and heat generated can also be used. Biochar can also be produced by yourself or in the home garden in a pit or in a Kon-Tiki, a funnel-shaped metal container.
Biochar in itself is not a fertilizer or nutrient, but a carrier. If not activated in the ground, it would do more harm than good, at least in the beginning. The nutrients contained in the soil and the water would be absorbed by the biochar and bound in the coal. In order to be able to acquire its soil-improving properties, it must first be physically charged with nutrients, i.e. activated.
Biochar, which was previously used as a feed or additive for bedding, is automatically charged with animal manure. In addition, biochar can be incorporated in layers into the compost or for example, can be activated by adding liquid fertilizer (e.g. nettle liquid or Bokashi).
Crumble a cube of yeast and dissolve it together with 500 g sugar or molasses in 6 liters of lukewarm water. With this mixture you can achieve wonders in accelerating compost. If you mix this mixture with biochar, you have made a real long-term fertilizer for your plants.
If biochar is introduced into the ground, it is stored there in a stable manner for several millennia, similar to crude oil or lignite. The proportion of carbon from the plant that was bound in the biochar is thus withdrawn from the carbon cycle, as it is neither converted to CO2 or methane by combustion nor by rotting. Over 80% of the carbon remains stable for more than 1000 years. This makes it possible to remove the CO2 originally absorbed by plants from the atmosphere in the long term, thereby slowing down climate change.
Excess energy is created in the production of biochar. We assume that biochar will be used more and more in future – especially large, production plants, for example to provide District or Process heat. This creates an additional benefit, the production plant becomes more economical, and the coal can be offered more cheaply.
The coal should have the highest possible carbon content, based on the total mass. Biochar sometimes contains a lot of water, and high carbon content, which is related to the dry matter. However, if the dry matter is only 70% and 85% of this is carbon, then that is significantly less carbon than with 95% dry matter and 80% carbon, based on the total mass. Apart from that, the heavy metal content in particular should be taken into account. Incidentally, a certificate alone is by no means a guarantee that the coal is of high quality.
As a rule, biochar can be prepared and processed in the same way as fossil coal. However, not all coal is the same. Just as Colombian anthracite coal differs significantly from Central European hard coal, biochar made from hardwood, for example, also differs from coal made from grain husks.
The production of biochar in your own garden is not recommended. The small quantities and short process cycles result in high emissions and low efficiency. Biochar should only be produced in large plants designed for this purpose with appropriate process management and flue gas cleaning.
In principle, biochar can be produced from any biogenic residue, for example from grain husks, waste wood or green cuttings. The dry pyrolysis processes needs dry raw material, these processes have already proven themselves. For the charring of sewage sludge and organic waste, which are usually rather wet, the HTC process is to be used in the future, but this is still in the development phase.
The highly volatile components, such as hydrogen and nitrogen, heavy metals with a low melting and evaporation temperature, are expelled with the pyrolysis gas and burned. Heavy metals with a high melting point remain in the ashes as pollutants. That is why it is not allowed, for example, to use treated waste wood for the production of animal feed charcoal.
That depends on what raw material(s) you are using. If the starting material is very moist and already partly fermented, such as B. the fermentation residues from a biogas plant, then the process will in the best case be energy self-sufficient. In the case of natural logs without high moisture, the pyrolysis gas even creates an energy surplus.
When plants grow, they remove CO₂ from the atmosphere. Depending on the application of the biochar, this CO₂ is either released again (barbecue charcoal) or bound in the long term (industrial products with a long service life). Apart from the energy required for harvesting, transporting and producing the biochar, the use of biochar is consequently CO₂-neutral or, ideally, even CO₂-negative. In contrast, fossil coal is carbon that has been gradually stored in the ground over millions of years. Thanks to the industrial revolution and technical developments, mankind has succeeded in releasing a large part of this enormous amount of pollution within a very short time, thereby significantly increasing the CO₂ content in the atmosphere and the temperature of the earth. This process must be stopped. The use of biochar instead of fossil coal can make a significant contribution to this.
We cannot answer this question, we can only state our personal opinion here. We are convinced that there is not enough biomass to fuel all coal-fired power plants with biochar in the future, especially when you consider that biochar should also be used in agriculture and in numerous industrial processes. Other, environmentally neutral forms of energy generation must certainly be further developed and established here. What is certain, however, is that biochar is obtained from a CO₂-neutral, constantly renewable raw material that is available in large quantities in many places, even if it is used sustainably. Biochar can replace fossil coal in a number of areas, e.g. B. in the pharmaceutical industry and medicine and in environmental technology. And it offers numerous advantages in the field of agriculture and animal husbandry. Which applications will ultimately prevail remains exciting.
This mainly depends on the water content of the input material supplied. With a water content of 45%, about three times the amount of the final biochar.
When CO₂ is withdrawn from the environment and does not get back into the atmosphere, we speak of negative emissions. The technical term for this is sequestration. As long as the biochar is not used again to generate energy, but is used in agriculture or the construction industry, a carbon sink is created.
Yes, however, these are far more complex and costly than the process of biochar production.
BIOCHAR IN AGRICULTURE AND ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
Biochar as a supplement to feed is a tried and tested household remedy for digestive disorders. The intestinal flora (the natural microbiological balance in the intestine) is restored. This automatically increases the animal’s well-being, it becomes more balanced and vital. Feed is more productive and growth is accelerated. The improved digestion also reduces methane emissions. Studies by independent institutions also show that the need for drugs such as antibiotics is significantly reduced. Diarrhea in calves and piglets is noticeably reduced.
- Improve digestion
- Detoxifies and inhibits inflammation
- Feed can be better utilized by the animal
- Cost advantages due to higher feed efficiency and better growth
- Strengthens the immune system
One liter of biochar in the bedding can absorb up to 5 liters of urine. Thanks to this property, the stable/pen or barn climate can be improved many times over in a very short time.
The spread of ammonia is prevented, which without biochar escapes from the urine within a few hours. Ammonia is not only harmful to smell, it is harmful to health: it attacks the mucous membranes and respiratory organs. On the ground, ammonia and water form the highly corrosive ammonia. It attacks toes, claws, balls of the feet and hooves.
- Bedding areas in the stable dry off better
- Urine is absorbed, inhibiting the formation of ammonia and reducing odors
- Suppression of decay/rotting and reduces the presence of flies.
- Reduces fungal and mold spores
- Stress on the respiratory tract and irritation of the claws or hooves are significantly reduced
Mix around 10% biochar into the litter. If biochar is already used in feeding, the proportions can be reduced accordingly.
Smelly manure is a sign that the decaying and breakdown process is out of control. Thanks to the use of biochar, however, this material cycle can be closed again and the liquid manure becomes a highly efficient, sustainable and odorless fertilizer.
While some of the minerals contained in the liquid manure such as ammonium, nitrate, urea and phosphate are available to the plants as nutrients, in addition to the climate-damaging emissions, a significant part of the nutrients is washed out into ground and surface waters. Due to the outgassing of ammonia and the leaching of nitrates, fertilization with untreated manure also leads to soil acidification, which severely affects the fertility and biological activity of the soil and accelerates the degradation of humus.
Due to its high specific surface, biochar binds ammonium and ammonia as well as other odor-intensive, often toxic substances very efficiently. Thanks to the biochar, most of the manure nitrogen can be stored in a way that is available for plants. The leaching of the slurry nutrients in the soil is significantly slowed down, which not only protects the groundwater but also prevents acidification of the soil. The liquid manure treated with biochar promotes soil activity and the build-up of humus. Instead of leaching the soils with toxic manure, the soils are built up over the long term. Overall, the use of biochar almost doubles the fertilizing effect of the manure.
- Significantly less stench
- No “sink and swim” layers
- the nitrate pollution in groundwater and soil is significantly reduced
- Decreased soil acidification
- Climate-damaging gases are reduced
- Quick humus build-up and good soil structure
- Nutrients and water are optimally stored for plants to use
- Save approx. 50% fertilizer in the long term due to the low losses
- improved plant growth
- plant bio-diversity is promoted
- chemical-free fertilization helps save the environment and the ecosystem
Biochar is not itself a fertilizer, but a carrier material: it is used together with other things: fertilizer, cattle manure or compost introduced into the soil and stores these substances. There, the coal particles provide a habitat for many useful microorganisms, fungi and bacteria, from which the cultivated plants benefit. The biochar is therefore an excellent store of nutrients and water.
Vorteile für den Boden:
- Higher water storage capacity of the soil (up to 5 times its own weight)
- Soil bacteria thrive and improve the nutrient supply for the plants
- Mycorrhizae (fungus and root) increase and improve the absorption of water and nutrients, protect against pests
- Toxins and heavy metals are absorbed; the quality of the products and the groundwater increases
- Better soil aeration and reduction of methane and nitrous oxide emissions
- Nutrient dynamics: Plants grow better, nutrients stay bound in the soil longer
- Plants are generally more resilient and more productive
As an animal feed additive, the coal should be ground as finely as possible. But then the coal becomes very dusty, it spreads through the slightest movement of air and settles everywhere. In this case it is advantageous to moisten the coal or to add it to the animals’ drinking water.
When processing large quantities of powdered biochar, the same safety precautions must be taken as when processing conventional coal dust, including explosion protection.
Our recommended daily dosage recommendation:
|Small Animals (Birds & Rodents): .3 grams (1/3 grams)||Poultry, Cows, Sheep/Goats, Pork: .5grams for every 1 kg of body weight|
|Cats: 1.5 grams||Horses: 40 grams for 250 kgs of body weight, 80 grams for 500 kgs of bodyweight, 120 grams for 700 kgs of bodyweight|
|Dogs: Weighing under 20 kgs = 1.5 grams. 20-40 kgs = 3 grams. More than 40 kgs = 6 grams.|
We recommend that you suspend adding the feed for 3 days out of 10 days to prevent a lack of essential nutrients. As soon as medicines are administered, it is necessary to consult with the veterinarian.
Feed charcoal should always be administered moist. It can be added in all common feed mixing plants and is usually miscible with all feed and complementary feed. It can also be administered via drinking water.
- More efficient feed conversion
- Better weight gain
- Strengthening of the immune system, healthier intestinal flora
- Binds pollutants present in the intestine, which reduces gas formation and reduces flatulence
- More vitality
- Increase in egg production for poultry
- Improvement of meat quality
- Significant reduction in cell counts in milk
- Increase in milk protein and milk fat content
- Reduction of veterinarian costs
Through the excretions, the biochar gets into the bedding and also contributes to a better stable climate.
(See FAQ: Why should you use biochar in the litter?)
Negative effects have not yet been found in any scientific study with short and/or long-term administration.
However, in cases of over feeding, constipation can occur in rare cases. Please note our individual recommendations for daily feeding.
If the animal needs medication, a break in the feed charcoal addition is recommended. The feed charcoal would absorb the medication in the animal’s digestive tract and impair their effect.
The biochar needs enough time to “recharge”, also called maturation period. This is temperature dependent. The colder it is, the lower the microbial activity and the longer the ripening period lasts.
The quantities given are guidelines to start with. Depending on the type of manure, the amount can still be adjusted at the top or bottom.
The conditions depend on the respective biochar. Here, however, you will find guideline values of our Carbio slurry coal.
|Under 6 degrees Celsius||Little activity|
|6 degrees Celsius||At least 30 days|
|6-10 degrees Celsius||30 days|
|10-15 degrees Celsius||21 days|
|15 degrees Celsius||14 days|
|Storage Room||Manure Coal|
|100 m³||600 Liters|
|200 m³||1200 Liters|
|500 m³||3000 Liters|
|1000 m3||6000 Liters|
Cascade use refers to the multiple use of a raw material over several stages. In the case of biochar, this can be simplified as follows:
The addition of feed coal improves the general state of health of the animal. Due to the excretions of the intestine, the biochar now enters the litter and improves the entire stable climate. The resulting manure loses its unpleasant smell and turns into a highly efficient sustainable fertilizer. Applied in the field, the biochar contained in it gradually releases the stored nutrients to the plants over a long period of time. The manure does not seep into the groundwater. The plants become more resistant, the soil does not dry out as quickly, helping to avoid erosion.
ANSWERS ABOUT TERRA PRETA
The term “Terra Preta” comes from Portuguese and means “black earth”. It refers to the fertile, deep black soil from the Amazon region. The original composition was a mixture of wood and biochar, human feces, compost interspersed with pottery shards and occasionally bones, too.
In addition to activated biochar, the commercially available Terra Preta products usually contain organic components such as compost, humus or manure and mineral components such as rock flour.
However, each manufacturer develops their own recipe.
Terra Preta is not a protected term, and each manufacturer can sell its own blend under this term. Therefore, be sure to pay attention to the composition of organic ingredients and the correct biochar content (5–10 %).
The main advantage of Terra Preta lies in the high storage capacity of the biochar it contains. The biochar contained in Terra Preta has already been activated, that is, it is already “fully fuelled” with the minerals and nutrients needed for plants. These nutrients are then gradually released back to the plants as needed.
In addition, biochar has the ability to store a multiple of its own weight in liquid. In the event of an impending drought, this liquid is gradually released to the plants and helps it to overcome periods of low moisture more easily. In this respect, drought stress occurs at a much later stage than with conventional substrates.
As with all plants, the correct choice of location and the specific requirements of each plant must be taken into account. Certain plants do not like nutrient-rich habitats. Weak-consuming plants and lean site-loving plant communities that require fewer nutrients and fertilizers are among them. As always, “the dose makes the poison”.
If it is to be processed immediately, then no. If the biochar has not been activated before, it will activate in the plant pot or in the bed. If this happens, the biochar will deprive the plants and the soil of all existing nutrients, which leads to a negative effect and will not be crowned with success. Therefore, always resort to using already “charged” biochar substrates or mix the biochar into your own compost layer by layer according to traditional style. You can then use it after 14 to 21 days when it has recharged.
Biochar can absorb many times its weight in water. If there is not enough water present after planting, the biochar removes the water from the plant.
Important: Soak the plants well so that the biochar is well saturated.
Tip: If you use bagged goods, open the bag in one place and saturate it properly with water in advance so that the substrate is already moist when planting.
The special feature of Terra Preta is the aforementioned biochar, which is extremely rich in important soil organisms, mycorrhizae and nutrients. This breeding ground does not require any chemical fertilizers and pesticides, so it is purely natural and extremely environmentally friendly. The soil is not polluted with chemical pollutants, nor is the groundwater contaminated by the chemical deposits. The old Indian black earth is therefore quite a recipe for success of the future, if we think about alternative ecological methods for the protection of nature.
Terra Petra makes the nutrients contained in the soil more available to the plants. You can pull the maximum amount of soil out of this. The soil quality is significantly improved. This can also be seen in the water balance of your soil. The soil is then better ventilated overall. The groundwater is protected from harmful influences. In addition, Terra Petra’s long-term CO₂ sequestration ensures that it makes a significant contribution to climate protection.
First of all, it is important to know that biochar increases microbial activity. This results in a significantly improved nutrient supply to all plants. At the same time, mycorrhizae at the plant root are increasing, a type of fungus that allows plants to better absorb the minerals contained in the soil. The pH value of the soil is improved, the water storage capacity is optimized. All this leads to the fact that your plants are optimally supplied without having to resort to fertilizers and chemical pesticides. The Edaphon, also referred to as the totality of organisms living in the soil (soil organisms and soil microorganisms), is strengthened.