“Biochar may represent the single most important initiative for humanity’s environmental future. The biochar approach provides a uniquely powerful solution, for it allows us to address food security, the fuel crisis, and the climate problem, and all in an immensely practical manner”. Prof. Tim Flannery 2007 Australian of the Year
Biochar is made by a process called pyrolysis, which means burning organic material with minimal oxygen. When woody biomass (dried, not green) is pyrolysed, all of the volatile components burn away and leave behind a carbon skeleton in a very stable, hard carbon form. This creates charcoal that has a pore structure which provides its near-magical potency in the garden.
In the soil, this hard structure serves as a kind of ‘coral reef’ for microbial life. Bacteria move in, paint the walls with their exudates and invite some fungi over for tea. Myceloid pathways are followed by hungry nematodes and microarthropods of all shapes and descriptions. The ‘reef’ begins to resemble a Star Wars cafe: all these busy soil creatures sharing grog and stories and, by the way, mentioning that the plant whose roots are just outside the front door is asking for some calcium or phosphorus, and that the plant would be happy to exchange those things for sugars and information.