Biochar is basically charcoal used as a soil amendment. It is promoted as a means of improving soil and as an approach for sequestering carbon to help mitigate climate change.
During the October 2011 ECHO Asia Agriculture and Community Development Conference, Dr. Karl Frogner introduced the concept of biochar and demonstrated how char can be produced from bamboo (see Dec 7, 2011 blog http://sustainabilityquest.blogspot.com/2011/12/echo-asia-biochar-trial.html). Prior to that, in an ECHO Asia Notes article, Biochar: An Organic House for Microbes, Bryan Hugill described the role of biochar for both agriculture and carbon sequestration.
In May, Dr. Abram Bicksler, a faculty member of the Chiang Mai-based ISDSI (http://www.isdsi.org/) and research advisor for ECHO Asia, began setting up a planned biochar trial to be implemented at the ECHO Asia Seed Bank. Finely ground bamboo char was mixed with ground up, composted cow manure and set aside for a three-month long period. During this time the bamboo char is expected to absorb nutrients and microbes from the manure. Around September, the biochar/manure mixture will be established in select plant beds so as to monitor and compare the crop performance and soil properties of beds receiving biochar and those receiving only char or cow manure.
As with other ECHO Asia trials, we will be sharing results from this biochar study.