04. About biochar

Biochar is a carbon-rich material produced from heating plant-derived matter (biomass) in a zero-oxygen environment to release energy-rich gases (a form of bioenergy). There is a very wide range of potential biochar feedstocks: e.g. wood waste, timber, agricultural wastes, manure, rice husks and straw, leaves, food wastes, paper sludge, greenwaste, distillers grain, bagasse (sugar cane residue) and many others. Biochar has a unique porous structure and chemical composition. It provides a potentially powerful method for reducing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, at the same time enhancing soils and agricultural productivity.

Biochar has recently been the focus of much research and media interest. In March 2009, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification produced a discussion document entitled ‘required policy actions to include carbon contained in soils including the use of biochar (charcoal) to replenish soil carbon pools, and restore soil fertility and sequester CO2’ (reference). A big task is ahead, with an estimated 1.6 million premature deaths from IAP, and 500 million stoves to replace (Smith 2009), and this project will investigate the innovation processes required for this, and will build capacity of stakeholders to prepare for future deployment.

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