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Experimental plots a few weeks after herbaceous plants were transplanted into biochar-amended plots.


Rejuvenating Soil with Biochar

Long ago, the Amazonians discarded agricultural wastes like corn husks by burning or burying them underground. Today, a similar approach is taken to make a porous, charcoal-like substance called biochar from agricultural materials, including manure and wood chips.

Burning these materials in low-oxygen conditions creates the carbon-rich biochar, and—taking their cues from the Amazonians—ARS scientists in Corvallis, OR, are examining its potential to rejuvenate the soil, especially in degraded land areas like mining sites where high acidity and pollutants like heavy metals can stop or slow plant growth. Biochar may also help farmers reduce their need for fertilizers as well as handling wastes like chicken manure.

Read Exploring the Benefits of Biochar to learn more.