Carbon Resources: Frequently Asked Questions

- What is biochar?

Biochar is a highly porous material rich in carbon. It is a product of pyrolysis, a process that involves the high-temperature treatment of any organic matter – such as wood, tree brash, grass clippings, garden trimmings, agricultural residues or ground coffee – in an oxygen-deprived environment.

- What is pyrolysis?

Pyrolysis involves the controlled high-temperature treatment of organic material in an oxygen-limited container. This prevents full combustion, instead breaking down the organic material into biochar. The duration and temperature of pyrolysis influence the characteristics of the resulting biochar.

- What is your biochar made from?

At Carbon Resources, our biochar derives mainly from rescued wood, sawmill waste and offcuts sourced from pallet- and crate-manufacturing processes. Most of the waste we repurpose was earmarked for landfills or incinerators. In this way, we’re playing our part in the recycling process and circular economy. Our biochar is an entirely natural product, free of any chemicals, toxins or plastics. 

- Where is your biochar made?

At Carbon Resources, all our biochar products are made in West Cork in the south of Ireland.

- What is biochar used for?

Biochar has numerous applications. As a natural soil enhancement, it improves soil quality and can be used as an additive for agricultural slurry and as a feed additive for livestock. In addition, the application of biochar at the base of ash trees has emerged as a promising solution to prevent and treat the invasive fungal pathogen known as “ash dieback”. Regardless of how you use biochar, it will aid in carbon sequestration and storage, helping to mitigate climate change.

- How do I use biochar?

To use biochar effectively, you must consider its porous nature and how it must absorb matter to fill its tiny pores. Inoculating biochar before adding it to your soil is crucial to prevent it from absorbing nutrients. One effective inoculation method involves simply adding it to your compost while it breaks down. You can also use various liquid nutrients as inoculants, such as comfrey tea, nettle tea and worm castings.

- What quantity of biochar should I use?

We recommend a biochar inclusion rate of up to 10% of the volume of your soil (that’s 1 part biochar to 9 parts soil). Just blend it into your compost or potting mix.

- When should I apply biochar?

While autumn is optimal, biochar is generally suitable for use at any time of the year.

- How does biochar work?

Imagine biochar as a sponge soaking up all the vital elements in your soil. With a vast surface area and unique porous properties, it’s able to retain water and nutrients and release them slowly as needed. This leads to boosted microbial activity in the soil and increased availability of nutrients and water for your plants. It also reduces nutrient run-off and increases drought resilience. 

- How does biochar transform slurry?

Biochar has the power to improve and transform slurry by reducing odours, boosting nutrient retention and fostering healthier soil. Thanks to its porous structure, biochar retains and slowly releases nutrients, resulting in enhanced soil fertility. This enriched soil supports better grass and crop growth, while also ensuring a thriving ecosystem. Plus, biochar effectively minimises the adverse environmental impact of slurry by reducing nutrient run-off and leaching.

The degree to which biochar increases slurry nutrient value varies based on multiple factors, such as the type and quantity of biochar used, the slurry composition and environmental conditions. Studies have yielded variable results; some reports indicate a substantial increase of 20% or more in the overall nutrient value of the slurry following the addition of biochar. Yet, achieving these optimal outcomes demands a careful approach, which considers the specific conditions and uses appropriate biochar application rates.

- What is the difference between biochar and charcoal?

Biochar and charcoal are both carbon-rich materials produced by the pyrolysis of organic matter, but they have distinct differences. Biochar is specifically designed for use as a soil amendment to improve soil fertility and carbon sequestration. It’s produced at lower temperatures and often from sustainably sourced biomass. Charcoal, on the other hand, is generally produced at higher temperatures for uses like cooking, heating or industrial processes. While both biochar and charcoal are forms of carbon, biochar is intended for agricultural purposes, contributing to soil health and carbon storage, whereas charcoal is primarily used for fuel.

- What is the difference between biochar and activated carbon?

The main difference between biochar and activated carbon lies in their intended purposes and production methods. Biochar is primarily used as a soil amendment to enhance soil fertility and carbon sequestration. It’s produced through the pyrolysis of organic materials, often biomass, at lower temperatures. Activated carbon, on the other hand, is designed for adsorption purposes, such as water purification or air filtration. It undergoes additional processing, including activation with oxidising gases, to create a highly porous structure that increases its surface area and adsorption capacity.

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