Biochar: Concept to Sequester Carbon
Biochar is a charcoal produced under high temperatures using crop residues, animal manure, or any type of organic waste material. Depending on the feedstock, biochar may look similar to potting soil or to a charred substance. The combined production and use of biochar is considered a carbon-negative process, meaning that it removes carbon from the atmosphere.
Biochar has multiple potential environmental benefits, foremost the potential to sequester carbon in the soil for hundreds to thousands of years at an estimate. Studies suggest that crop yields can increase as a result of applying biochar as a soil amendment. Some contend that biochar has value as an immediate climate change mitigation strategy. Scientific experiments suggest that greenhouse gas emissions are reduced significantly with biochar application to crop fields.
Obstacles that may stall rapid adoption of biochar production systems include technology costs, system operation and maintenance, feedstock availability, and biochar handling. Biochar research and development is in its infancy. Nevertheless, interest in biochar as a multifaceted solution to agricultural and natural resource issues is growing at a rapid pace both nationally and internationally.
Past Congresses have proposed numerous climate change bills, many of which do not directly address mitigation and adaptation technologies at developmental stages, such as biochar. However, biochar may equip agricultural and forestry producers with numerous revenuegenerating products: carbon offsets, soil amendments, and energy.
This report briefly describes biochar, some of its potential advantages and disadvantages, legislative support, and research and development activities underway in the United States.
This summary was taken from the Congressional Research Service Report R40186 by Kelsi Bracmort