As people search for solutions to environmental issues, the answers are sometimes hidden in plain sight. In fact, nature itself often holds the keys to unlocking some of our most challenging environmental issues. Biochar is a naturally occurring substance that has the potential to reduce agricultural waste and curb global warming.
The natural world is extremely complex — we are just beginning to scratch the surface in understanding how our oceans, forests, and grasslands operate on a microbial level. In woodlands, natural forces such as wildfire work in unison with the decomposition of organic materials. This interconnected network of processes leads to a complex system of regeneration that is responsible for plant growth the world over.
Within circles of environmentalists and horticulturists, biochar is gaining serious recognition as a carbon sequestration tool and organic soil amendment. Farmers are also taking notice of biochar hemp and looking to the substance as a potential source of revenue.
What is Biochar?
Biochar is a naturally occurring material that resembles charcoal in many of its physical attributes. It is made by burning organic materials such as wood, leaves, and grasses in a very specific way.
Biochar is created through the process of pyrolysis. According to the USDA website, “Pyrolysis is the heating of an organic material, such as biomass, in the absence of oxygen. Because no oxygen is present the material does not combust but the chemical compounds … that make up the material thermally decompose into combustible gases and charcoal.”
Because biochar does not fully combust, it retains the carbon that would normally be released into the atmosphere with combustion. As such, it offers a legitimate way to capture carbon that is otherwise released with burning organic materials.
Biochar is a great option for CBD hemp farmers looking to turn stalks and other excess plant material into a sustainable commodity.
What is Biochar Used For?
Biochar is useful on many fronts. On the environmental side, it offers a great way to dispose of organic materials without adding carbon to the atmosphere. When it comes to using biochar, it is an extremely beneficial soil additive that has many applications in agriculture.
Biochar is a useful soil additive because it retains beneficial nutrients and has a unique molecular structure. Whether you are growing hemp or food crops, it will help your soil in the following ways:
- Regulate nutrient release
- Heighten water retention
- Reinforce soil structure
- Increase porosity
- Enhance electrical conductivity
- Boost microbial activity
When all of these elements are taken together, they paint a picture of biochar as a sort of miracle
substance in the world of agriculture. Due to its porosity, it reduces excess water runoff in commercial agriculture. Not only will biochar save money on water expenses, but it will also reduce the amount of fertilizer you need to purchase each year.
By keeping water and nutrients close to a plant’s root zone, biochar also increases microbial activity in the soil. In the end, this process leads to healthy living soils that can be reused year after year.
Types of Biochar
Biochar can be made from nearly any organic wood or plant material on Earth. However, when producing biochar to be used as a soil amendment, manufacturers generally focus on specific feedstocks.
Biochar behaves differently depending on what type of material it is made from. For example, biochar made from straw will retain a different level of nutrients than biochar made from hemp stalks. In like fashion, different varieties of biochar have unique porosity characteristics and subsequent water retention capabilities.
Biochar made from wood is an effective soil amendment that can be used anywhere in the world. However, while wood biochar has excellent water retention capabilities, most varieties lack the available nutrients found in plant-based biochar.
Biochar is also made from plants like grass, hay, and straw. This type of biochar has more available macronutrients — like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium — than wood biochar.
While research on biochar from hemp stalks is still in its infancy, it will likely behave similarly to wood and plant-based biochars.
Growing Hemp for Biochar
As the hemp CBD business continues to grow and evolve, companies are still figuring out the logistics of this new market. As such, the hemp industry is continuously reinventing itself with best practices. Of these, finding new revenue streams and ways to reduce waste are always at the top of the list for hemp farmers.
Whether you are growing industrial hemp or CBD hemp, there is a good deal of organic waste that must be dealt with at harvest time. Turning hemp plant byproducts into biochar could create an additional revenue stream for hemp farmers, while also reducing the amount of waste material coming from each hemp farm.
Hemp and Biochar for Sustainability
Biochar from hemp stalks is environmentally friendly in several ways. Not only is it made from plant materials previously considered waste, but it also helps sequester carbon from the atmosphere and return it to the soil.
Biochar could be particularly impactful for the hemp CBD industry. As CBD hemp plants are strictly cultivated for their flowers, each harvest comes with a good deal of wasted plant material. When you include the legal cannabis industry in these figures, the numbers can be quite astounding. To illustrate, studies show that Washington State produced nearly 500,000 lbs of cannabis plant waste each year from 2014-2017.
Biochar offers a great way to keep hemp and cannabis plant material out of the landfill and turned into something useful.
Due to the unique way hemp biochar is created through pyrolysis, it is burned without releasing carbon into the atmosphere. As such, hemp biochar is also a powerful carbon sequestration tool that can help reduce the greenhouse effect and global warming.
Count on High Grade Hemp Seed for All Things Hemp
At High Grade Hemp Seed, we are fascinated by all the ways hemp can benefit the earth. Biochar is another great example of how hemp can be used to help solve some of our most difficult environmental challenges. Contact us today to discuss hemp cultivation and sustainability in more detail.