Oxford Biochar provides biochar products and biochar intelligence for gardens, allotments and organic farms.
Why is this important?
Concerns about chemical pollution and contamination of food products, genetic modification and the desire for fresh produce has seen an increase in home grown produce in the past few years. There are currently 300,000 allotments in the UK. Unfortunately, this increase is coupled with an increase in sales of synthetic fertilizers. Whereas fertilizers increase plant production in the short term, making them is energy and carbon intensive. Globally, the production of fertilizers is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector (38%).
Biochar could become part of the solution to several major environmental problems we face this century: climate change, food security, depleted soils, fertilizer pollution, the use of peat compost, and deforestation.
What is Biochar?
Biochar is a carbon rich product of the slow burning of plant material with little or no oxygen. It is organic, increases crop yields, breaks down pesticides, suppresses methane and nitrous oxide (two aggressive greenhouse gases) and sequesters carbon. It can be produced from agricultural crop waste such as straw, waste wood and any other carbon-based organic material that would otherwise be disposed of by burning, composting or adding directly to the soil.
"I planted pak choi seeds in 20 small pots with your biochar (10% by weight) and New Horizon compost.
(...) The germination rates was higher in the biochar pots compared to the control.
The average size of the biochar seedlings is much greater.
The roots of some of the biochar seedlings are now growing out of the holes in the bottom of the little pots but not out of any of the non-biochar plots.
The leaf colour of the biochar seedlings looks much better.
Overall, the difference is really striking and I will always plant in biochar enriched soil in the future."
Chris Goodall, Carbon Commentary, Guardian Environment Network.
"I can’t believe the difference it made to my spring onion, beetroot and radish harvest! I highly recommend doing it." Debbie Winton, Earthwatch Institute.
How can Biochar help slow down climate change?
Plants absorb the main greenhouse gas CO2 out of the atmosphere. When the plant is made into Biochar, it becomes 90% carbon, in its most stable form. When you bury Biochar, you sequester carbon back into the soil. On a large scale, it has been proposed as a method for reversing the CO2 build-up in the atmosphere and thus mitigating climate change.
How can you help?
Oxford Biochar aims to promote the use of Biochar by supplying Biochar in the UK and providing biochar intelligence internationally. Our long term goal is to help organic farmers around the world make their own biochar locally and safely by adhering to international standards.
First, we aim to sequester as much carbon as possible into British soils by selling locally produced biochar in garden centers. This will also provide a viable alternative to peat compost. You can help us achieve this by pledging through peoplefund.it.
We only need a few thousand pounds to get us there. This would cover the cost of making more bags (see photo), producing more Biochar, organising our transport logistics, and sales to garden centers. We need to spread the word about the great potential Biochar holds, but that takes time, energy and enthusiasm. We have the energy and the enthusiasm, so please give us the chance to make this work.