Biochar Basics

New to biochar or looking for some specific information?   Here's a great list of resources, by category, to start your journey.  If you're ready for more technical information, check out our Go Deeper page with even more references and resources. 

Introductory Articles and Videos

General Information Websites 

Biochar Production Technology

Biochar in Soil

Uses of Biochar

Sustainability and Life Cycle Assessment

Biochar-related businesses

Social Biochar

 

Introductory Articles and Videos

Biochar on Wikipedia. Non-Technical overview.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar

Biochar: An Ancient Soil Amendment is New Again.  Web article.  A brief overview of biochar from Rodale's Organic Life Magazine.  http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/biochar

What is Biochar?  Website.  Non-Technical.  Brian Cartwright's pinterest.com page. This website features an interesting collection of web-based articles ranging in topics, from demonstrations on making biochar in the backyard to industrial applications and production to benefits to simple characterizations and descriptions of biochars.  https://www.pinterest.com/nnumeric/what-is-biochar/

The Secret of El Dorado: The discovery of biochar.   A fine introductory video.  Catch it on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqp_H95wjPE, along with many other videos, some excellent, others tolerable, many amusing, others confusing.  There are too many to catalog and since we don’t want to diss anyone’s efforts, we leave it to you to find the gems.  

Biochar Research Down Under.  Non-Technical website.  The site describes and links to a variety of biochar research from Australia’s Primary Industries Science and Research agency. http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/research/topics/biochar

Biochar Project: Australia.  Charmaster Dolph Cooke shares his years of biochar experimentation on this non-technical website.  This excellent Website offers articles, videos, and resource-links on biochar production and use.  http://biocharproject.org/

 

General Information Websites 

The Biochar Journal.  Website.  Non-Technical to Technical.  This excellent resource is the home to an excellent journal meant “to spark innovative research to find economically and environmentally responsible uses for biochar.”  Articles range in content from the potential use of biochar in coffee production to the physical characteristics of biochar function in soils to creating biochar in cone kilns, and much more.  http://www.biochar-journal.org/en/home

BioEnergy Lists: Biochar Mailing Lists.  Website.  Non-Technical.  This website is an excellent clearinghouse or contact point for mailing lists, events, and general information regarding biochar – from backyard production to agricultural use to heat production (for cooking or generation) and more.  The site features a large assortment of links, biochar videos and links to videos, websites, mailing lists, and PDF files.  http://biochar.bioenergylists.org/

Carbon-Smart.  David Yarrow.  Website.  Non-technical.  This delightful website is full of interesting information.   This website's “Link Library” provides links to several short but useful articles explaining how biochar can benefit agriculture, husbandry and soil-building. http://dyarrow.org/gateway.htm

International Biochar Initiative.  A comprehensive website with excellent information from around the world, including a comprehensive bibliography of  almost 3000 biochar articles and research papers. www.biochar-international.org

 

Biochar Production

Large-Scale

Biochar and Pyrolysis:  Renewable Soil Carbon and Energy.  Web-article.  Non-technical.  Sustaining the Pacific Northwest.  This short article describes pyrolysis and biochar and outlines the biochar research program at Washington State University.  http://csanr.wsu.edu/publications/SPNW/SPNW-v7-n4.pdf#page=1

New England Biochar.  Video.  2:31.  Non-technical.  New England Biochar. This short clip showcases a sophisticated retort kiln facility for manufacturing large amounts of biochar.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwNPtWff9Q

Mid-Scale

Biochar on the farm.  Video.  2:20.  Non-technical.  Agrisonic. This short video demonstrates the experiences of a large-scale chicken farmer who makes biochar from chicken manure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiIbxaW6NdE

San Juan Biochar Project, 2010.  PDF file.  Non-technical.  Tri-Bar Inc.  The report describes a project to test a medium-scale biochar production research project that this company did under contract with the U.S. Forest Service.  The report is a straightforward description of the volume, scope, and methods of the project and has good overview images of the double-barrel retort pyrolysis system. http://biochar-us.org/pdf%20files/San_Juan_BioChar_Project.pdf

Small-Scale

Backyard Biochar.  Kelpie Wilson.   Website.  Non-Technical to Technical.  This blog with video and written content, as well as a source of links to other educational resources, is an excellent resource on small-scale biochar production.  Kelpie Wilson has compiled educational materials and small-scale research reports on several kilns and methods for small-scale biochar production.  http://www.backyardbiochar.net/

Biochar Pit Burn Demonstration.  Web article.  Hawaii Biochar Products, LLC, (now Pacific Biochar, LLC).  A brief article with some good photos on how to make biochar in a traditional conical earth kiln.  http://hawaiibiochar.com/biochar-burn-demonstration/

Biochar making for farm scale with the Moxham.  Video. 2:26.  Non-Technical. Charmaster Dolph Cooke.  This rough-cut video demonstrates the Moxham stove.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEbHhr8Uwro

Everything Nice Stove Instructions.  PDF file.  Non-Technical.  World Stove Corporation.  A useful 5-page guide to building a small top-lit updraft kiln. http://worldstove.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/EverythingNice_Stove_Instructions.pdf

Kon-Tiki Kiln.  Website.  Ithaka Institute.  This site features a cool collection of images of kon-tikis in use all over the world.  https://www.pinterest.com/ithakainstitute/kon-tiki-kiln/

Learning to Burn and Make Biochar, Not Smoke.  PDF file.  Non-technical.  Kelpie Wilson.  Good article on burning slash piles to maximize biochar production and minimize smoke release.  http://tcia.org/digital_magazine/tci-magazine/2014/02/index.htm#?page=26

The $365 retort kiln – pyrolysis.  Video.  0:52.  Kelpie Wilson.  This quick clip offers a good, brief view of a horizontal-barrel retort system. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rIfhNyLluI#t=

 

Biochar in Soil

 

Biochar Use in Soil.  Web Article.  Non-Technical.  International Biochar Initiative.  This article offers a good introductory explanation of biochar's effects on soil and soil life.http://www.biochar-international.org/biochar/soils

Biochar Use in Soil, Guidelines and Instructions for Growers.  PDF file.  Non-Technical.  David Yarrow.  2014.  This brief and fun article covers the 4 Ms:  Moisten, Micronize, Mineralize, Microbe inoculations.  http://www.dyarrow.org/CarbonSmartFarming/docs/BiocharUseInSoil.pdf

USDA National Soil Tilth Laboratory.  Biochar Farms’ web article by Dr. David Laird.  Semi-technical.  This article is an excellent synopsis on the effects of biochar in soil and its relationship to the soil food web. http://biocharfarms.org/farming/

How Biochar Works in Soil.  Web article.  Semi-technical.  Kelpie Wilson.  The Biochar Journal.  This article is one of the best articles out there on the mechanics of biochar in soil – how it works and how different processes yield different chars that work differently in the soil.  A great resource.  http://www.biochar-journal.org/en/ct/32-How-biochar-works-in-soil

 

Biochar in Compost

Biochar and the Biomass Recycling Industry.  Magazine article on the web.  Jim Grob, et.al., Non-technical analysis of biochar’s potential in the composting industry.  http://www.biocycle.net/2011/08/16/biochar-and-the-biomass-recycling-industry/

The Use of Biochar in Composting.  Well-researched PDF by Marta Camps and Thayer Thomlinson.  http://www.biochar-international.org/sites/default/files/Compost_and_biochar_IBI_2015.pdf

 

Uses of Biochar

Agriculture

Adventure of Biochar Bob – a YouTube Channel  https://www.youtube.com/user/BiocharBob.  And check out his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BiocharBob?fref=ts.    Follow Biochar Bob as he goes to Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica and Vermont talking with farmers using biochar in their fields, gardens and livestock operations.    Check out all of his videos!

Biochar – Agrichar – Terra Preta.  Video.  Non-technical.  This video offers a brief introduction to biochar and its potential contribution to agricultural production and long-term carbon sequestration.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzmpWR6JUZQ

A conversation with Dr. Fred Kirschenmann.  Web article.  International Food Service Sustainability Symposium.  A brief interview with Dr. Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and long-time farmer.  In this interview, Dr. Kirschenmann makes the link between biochar, soil biology and food taste and quality, based on his own farming experience and on extensive research.  http://foodservicesustainability.blogspot.com/2011/04/conversation-with-dr-fred-kirschenbaum.html

Biochar Farms.  Website.  Non-technical to Semi-technical.  Biochar Farms.  This site is a good portal to biochar and its use in agriculture, with some informative web articles and several links to further resources – from videos to journal articles.  Though it has an Australian focus it is applicable globally.       http://biocharfarms.org/

Biochar in Horticulture.  Web-article.  Non-technical.  NSW DPI. This report gives a good general overview of biochar and its use in horticulture.  http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/447857/DPI-BioChar-in-Horticulture.pdf

 

Gardens

A Home Gardener's Primer.  Washington State University Extension.  2014.  PDF.  Non-Technical.   This article is a good overview of biochar's role in gardening.  However, a note of caution: the author mistakenly discourages the reader from making char at home.  The author also mischaracterizes medium-temperature chars as high-temperature chars, while dismissing entirely the notable qualities of high-temperature biochars.  http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/FS147E/FS147E.pdf

Gardening with Biochar FAQ.  Website.  Non-technical to Semi-technical.  Phillip Small.  Though some of the information on this page is a bit dated, it is an excellent little work in progress.  http://biochar.pbworks.com/w/page/9748043/FrontPage

Using Biochar in the Garden.  Web article.  GardenerScot.  A nice introduction to inoculating and using biochar in the garden.  http://gardenerscott.blogspot.com/2012/06/using-biochar-in-garden.html

 

Livestock & Poultry

The use of biochar in cattle farming.   Web Article.  Semi-technical.  Achim Gerlach & Hans-Peter Schmidt.   The Biochar Journal.  Another interesting article by Peter Schmidt.  This one makes a great case for biochar and EMI bacteria polycultures for many functions in cattle management.   http://www.biochar-journal.org/en/ct/9-The-use-of-biochar-in-cattle-farming

Charcoaling Manure, Greening Neighborhoods in Chesapeake Bay.  A non-technical article about an interesting study and subsequent implementation of charring poultry manure, adding that biochar to soil and reducing nutrient run-off.  This protects the Bay and enhances fertility in yards and farms.  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150701123655.htm?utm_source=feedburner

Biochar in poultry farming.  Web article by Semi Henning Gerlach & Hans-Peter Schmidt.  This article is a good introduction into the advantages of using biochar in poultry farming, including prevention or reduction of disease common disease problems. The Biochar Journal. http://www.biochar-journal.org/en/ct/10-Biochar-in-poultry-farming

 

Remediation

Biochar and Remediation of Disturbed Lands and Water:  a Review of the Effects of Biochar on Reducing Contaminant Concentrations in Disturbed Soils and Water.  PDF File.  Semi-technical.  Bison Soil Solutions.  A good, review of biochar's remediative and adsorptive abilities in soils contaminated with organic and inorganic substances. 

Biochar More Effective, Cheaper at Removing Phosphate from Water.  Web Article.  Non-technical.  Summary of research demonstrating biochar's utility  in removing phosphates from water. http://eponline.com/articles/2011/05/18/biochar-more-effective-cheaper-at-removing-phosphate-from-water.aspx

Stormwater Remediation

Paper mill biochar may help filter Port water.  Web article.  Non-technical.  Port Townsend Leader.   This article reports on a pilot project to use biochar to filter heavy metals from storm-water run-off in Port Townsend, Washington.  http://www.ptleader.com/news/paper-mill-biochar-may-help-filter-port-water/article_3b8e78f6-8583-11e4-8e37-eb4b861b936b.htm

 

Energy

Natural draft woodgas stove and biochar trial findings.  Video.  3:00.  Non-technical Agrisonic.  This video gives a brief demo on boiling water with energy released while making biochar – with a brief vegetation trial.  Several interesting, similar videos follow.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5OAkmum7gU

Renewable carbon negative energy.  Video.  0:42.  Non-technical.  Agrisonic.  This brief clip demonstrates a biochar kiln simultaneously boiling water and creating biochar.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oI1kYOnwaU

 

Carbon Sequestration with Biochar

Biochar and carbon sequestration.  Web-article. Non-technical.  Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.  This short article describes the research being done on using biochar for carbon sequestration.  http://www.istc.illinois.edu/research/biochar.cfm

How much carbon can biochar systems offset – and when?  Web article.  Non-technical.  International Biochar Initiative.  This brief article outlines IBI's carbon offset vision and methodology.  http://www.biochar-international.org/images/final_carbon_wpver2.0.pdf

 

Other Biochar Uses

The 55 uses of biochar.  Web article.  Non-technical.  by Hans-Peter Schmidt & Kelpie Wilson.  The Biochar Journal  This article lists the many non-agricultural uses for charcoal. http://www.biochar-journal.org/en/ct/2-The-55-uses-of-biochar

Biochar Paper – elevating biochar from novelty to ubiquity.  Web article.  Non-technical.  Kathleen Draper.  The Biochar Journal   This article chronicles a paper-making project using charcoal.  http://www.biochar-journal.org/en/ct/15-Biochar-Paper-%E2%80%93-elevating-biochar-from-novelty-to-ubiquity-

Biochar as an Acoustics Insulator.  A quick overview of the sustainability of various forms of insulation including biochar.  http://fingerlakesbiochar.com/biochar-acoustics-insulator/

 

Sustainability and Life Cycle Assessment

Declaration of Sustainability for Biochar Production.  PDF file.  Non-Technical.  U.S. Biochar Initiative.  Draft of an ethical and environmental standard for all phases of biochar production. http://biochar-us.org/pdf%20files/Biochar%20Sustainability%20Protocols%20-%20Mar%202011%20Draft.pdf

Lifecycle Assessment of Biochar production from corn stover, yard waste, and switchgrass.  A powerpoint presentation summarizing the findings of a research paper by Roberts, et.al.  http://www.lcacenter.org/LCA9/presentations/141.pdf

      A web search for ‘biochar life cycle assessment’ will bring up a wide range of studies.

 

Biochar-related businesses

As a non-profit, the USBI cannot endorse particular for-profit businesses, nor do we wish that we have personally reviewed, vetted or analyzed any product or technology.  Please do an internet search for products and technologies.  You can get started in the Pacific Northwest by going here.  http://www.nwbiochar.org

NFF recognizes biochar, biochemical business ideas.  Web article.  Biomass Magazine.  Brief article on the National Forest Foundation's program to meet forest restoration needs through business enterprise and their award to a biochar company.  http://www.biomassmagazine.com/articles/11537/nff-recognizes-biochar-biochemical-business-ideas

 

Social Biochar

Facebook:  U.S. Biochar Intiatiative  https://www.facebook.com/USbiochar?ref=hl 

Facebook:  Biochar Bob.  https://www.facebook.com/BiocharBob?fref=ts

Do a search and be amazed at the number of biochar sites on Facebook and Twitter!