[Biochar Science with Dr. David Laird] In this episode Dr. David Laird, PhD, discusses the science of biochar. Biochar is a form of charcoal that occurs naturally as a result of forest fire, and that is produced in a controlled combustion called pyrolysis. Biochar is increasingly recognized as essential to many soil-building processes, and is hailed for its unique carbon sequestration properties.
Biochar is like a sponge of sorts, with small, cavernous spaces throughout its structure that provide habitat for soil microbiology and that provide water absorption and retention advantages to soils. It is estimated that between 10% and 50% of the carbon in natural soils is char. With chemical properties between those of graphite and biopolymers (all forms of carbon), biochar has a “half-life” of 100s if not 1000s of years; meaning that the carbon absorbed from the atmosphere by the plants and trees that are made into char remains in the ground and doesn’t release back into the atmosphere for a relatively long time. This is the reason that the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other leading scientific authorities recognize biochar as a key to climate stabilization.
Dr. Laird discusses how evolving policy alongside evolving carbon credit markets are helping to transform the economic and ecological landscapes for farmers, ranchers, foresters, and other land-stewards who can apply biochar to their soils. With the correct incentives and market drivers, biochar has the potential to deliver one gigaton of net carbon reduction annually in the United States and 10 gigatons world-wide.
ABOUT DR. DAVID LAIRD, PHD
David Laird received a PhD in agronomy from Iowa State University in 1987. He is currently founder and president of N-Sense Inc, an agrotechnology company and professor emeritus at Iowa State University. As a professor he mentored 20 M.S. and Ph.D. students. He is author or co-author of over 157 refereed journal articles and book chapters related to biochar, bioenergy, clay mineralogy, clay surface chemistry and environmental science. His publications have been cited over 20,000 times and his h-index is 60 (Google Scholar). Previously he served as editor of Geoderma, associate editor for Soil Science Society of America Journal and Clays and Clay Minerals and as President and vice-president of the Clay Minerals Society. He is a fellow in the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America.
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