Dr. Tim Flannery - Professor, Macquarie University Sydney
Biochar may represent the single most important initiative for humanity s environmental and agricultural future.
This book shows how biochar can play a key role in achieving more productive, sustainable, and environmentally beneficial agriculture.
Technically, biochar science is complex and evolving but its essence, as explained in this book, is straightforward. If you heat almost any biological material to a certain temperature, and restrict or exclude oxygen, a process called pyrolysis occurs. The material changes form and you get two very useful end-products: charcoal and synthetic gas. The synthetic gas can be used in the same way as other fuels, including generating electricity.
The charcoal end-product has remarkable, unique qualities and is the focus of this book. When added to soil, the charcoal is called biochar. Biochar amends and improves the soil and does so permanently: biochar is a very stable form of carbon and will endure for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. In the soil, biochar retains moisture and acts like a coral reef for microbes and fungi that are beneficial to soil and plant growth. Studies have proved that biochar can improve crop yields.
At the same time, biochar in the soil sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, because otherwise the decomposing material used to produce biochar would have deposited more carbon into the air. This sequestration actively draws down atmospheric carbon and can start reducing our global carbon debt.
This book explains how producing and applying biochar can transform abundant, readily available biological material usually considered waste the crop waste left rotting in the field after harvest, fallen limbs in a forest into a renewable, environmentally friendly resource.
These benefits are well within reach. The technologies for producing biochar already exist, and as this book explains, have been in use for centuries, dating back to the ancient Amazon basin. Those technologies have decidedly low-tech roots, and therefore may be globally adaptable.
For all of these reasons, biochar has profound potential. It can be a key part of the solution to the daunting, interlaced challenges we face, because above all other options offered to date, biochar represents a practical, scalable approach that can address those challenges simultaneously.
What about the title of this book, The Biochar Revolution? The title is apt; it reflects that revolutionary change is needed because we simply don't have time to wait for evolutionary change. In a very real sense, the predicate for the biochar solution is a biochar revolution.
On the other hand, despite the word revolution, this book is not a political or philosophical screed, aloof from garden and field. It is by design and execution a compendium of historical, scientific, and practical how-to information, flavored with inspiring personal histories, from a diverse community of contributors.
More pointedly, because biochar-making techniques are readily accessible to everyone, and the need is so pressing, this book shows concretely how all of us, in our own gardens and in our own communities, can contribute and help make a genuine difference now from the ground up without having to wait for our governments and institutions to fully mobilize. Those interested can try making their own biochar and by sharing their results, add valuable data to the worldwide knowledge base. Others can make an impact by participating in community biochar initiatives.
The messages in this book cannot be repeated enough. If it finds wide enough readership, and if enough people at the grass roots literally and figuratively take some of the small, easy steps outlined here, the cumulative power of the many will lever dramatic, sustainable, and revolutionary change for us all.
Dr. Tim Flannery
Professor, Macquarie University Sydney,
Australia Australian of the Year