It’s been around for centuries, but has been largely forgotten until recently. In the last few decades, farmers have been returning to the practice of using biochar and spreading the good word about its usefulness in growing cannabis.
Biochar is a carbon rich charcoal soil that is made during a process known as pyrolysis. The reason its popular once again? It may be able to address some of the environmental issues we face today.
What Exactly Does This Stuff Do?
Biochar naturally has a large surface area. For that reason, it has a ton of nooks and other hiding places for fungi and other bacteria to grow and live long productive lives. In other words, it’s basically a bed and breakfast for organic material. One that they don’t want to leave. One that encourages them to enhance the food web of your soil.
The bacteria that are attracted to biochar and grow so plentifully there, promote healthy soil by making nutrients available to the root systems of your cannabis, while super charging their immune systems at the same time.
Ok, But What Else Does It Do?
Fungi and other microorganisms aren’t the only things that love the massive surface area of biochar. Water also loves it. There’s a process known as CEC, or cation exchange capacity, that gets the job done.
Here’s some science for you: nutrients give off a positive charge, biochar gives off a negative charge, and water gives off a bipolar charge. For this reason, both water and nutrients are naturally attracted to biochar. Can’t help themselves really.
This organic hook up makes certain that your soil retains both nutrients and water. Your roots can use them on demand and therefore grow stronger faster.
Charcoal, Activated Charcoal, or Biochar?
If the root syllable ‘char’ doesn’t already give it away, charcoal, activated charcoal, and biochar have a lot in common. But when it comes to which is the better soil amendment for your cannabis grow, biochar is the winner.
(Heads up: more science coming) Charcoal is a carbon rich fuel. But biochar is able to harness carbons ability to provide a huge surface area for bacteria. It also doesn’t have to hardness and chunkiness that you get with activated charcoal. So, while activated charcoal has more surface area than biochar, it isn’t as hassle-free to deal with.
Sign Me Up. How Do I Make It?
You need a kiln. If you don’t already have one (really?) or know how to make one, you might be looking to purchase. When you purchase clones for sale, be sure to ask if your grower also sells biochar. Raise demand and it will only become easier and easier to acquire.
For those curious about making it, you need some organic material, like yard waste or forest fire debris. Then you need to bake your organic material in your kiln.
Biochar’s Environmental Benefits
In forestry-speak, a snag is a dead or dying tree. Snags make excellent organic material for your home kiln (or for the industrial kilns if you’re buying). Snags burn easily and contribute to forest fires in a big way. By removing them for biochar production, you’re helping to reduce forest fires.
Not only do snags provide fuel to raging fires, they also release a higher volume of carbon dioxide into the soil. This particular carbon dioxide is stable and therefore won’t release into the atmosphere. This build up of CO2 in the soil kills the happy organisms that we need and love.
Industrial agriculture is tough on soil. Biochar is great for rebuilding that eroded soil. It brings microorganisms, nutrients, and water back, which not only feeds the soil but also prevents run offs. Win win.
The Take Away
Biochar’s benefits are far reaching. It’s a soil amendment that is easy to produce and incredibly cost effective. In drought struggling areas it can rebuild soil that most think is beyond saving. In your cannabis garden, you can grow healthier and stronger plants faster and cheaper.