Natalia Welzenbach-Marcu | March 3rd, 2019
Biochar, a kind of catch-all name for a blend of pyrogenic organic material, could be the solution that the agriculture industry is looking for.
“Pyrogenic” means “produced from heat or combustion”, and biochar is a mass of organic, composted material burned (without oxygen–in the absence of it) until a dark, solid, coal-like mass forms.
Doctor Rachel Hestrin, who works in the Lawerence Livermore National Laboratory in California, conducted an experiment where she took a portion of biochar and exposed it, in the lab, to some environmental and elemental changes that it would encounter in nature. She then tested its ability to absorb harmful excess nitrogen by exposing it to ammonia, and found that the biochar almost completely absorbed the ammonia pollution.
This development is exciting, as it indicates that biochar could be a useful and inexpensive protective substance to use for agriculture, and an effective way to reduce overall nitrogen pollution.
The study looks at Ethiopia and the possible improvements that biochar can help their farmers make, as most Ethiopian farmers use manure, straw, and other organic materials to fertilize crops. Manure, unfortunately, releases nitrogen into the air as it breaks down–but biochar could be a great solution for this problem.
Dr. Hestrin sees this material benefiting a wide range of businesses. UN Environment recently released a set of concerns for the environment, and one of the biggest is nitrogen pollution, making this the perfect time to debut a new, helpful solution.