EU scientists suggest changing the name from biochar to plant charcoal.
The re-discovery of â€œTerra Pretaâ€ in the Amazon Basin marked for soil scientists a possible turning point: the idea that an ancient practice could provide insight into correcting CO2 build-up and staving soil decline. â€œMillions of Euros have been spent now on biochar studies.â€ conference organizer for the Berlin October 2011 ANS-Symposium intoned. Far from the near-panacea biochar in USA presents for saving climate and soil, the European lab tests along with tough EC climate regulatory debate â€œcast doubt that significant progress will be made until many questions are answered.â€ The Institut fÃ¼r Agrarrelevante Klimaforschung presented data showing variable carbon-stability and summarized soil-plant studies confirming that negative effects are almost as common as positive effects. The big topic was lab tests which suggest biochar carbon has as little as 35 percent stability or possibly â€œclimatologically irrelevant.â€
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Editor Dr. Kehres (Journal â€œHumus and Agricultureâ€œ) summed up the symposium: â€œBiochar appears over-rated â€” the biochar claim to 1,000 year stability is revised downwards to 10 to100 years, roughly the same as compost.â€ Details on the fractions of carbon from pyrolysis, HTC and other carbonizing methods weighed against the lack of method standards, plus rankling over carbon legislative validation, suggest a biochar future â€œif even economicalâ€ faces many hurdles.
The symposium eventually turned to name calling: it was proposed to drop the prefix â€œbioâ€ from biochar, a â€œtechnical misnomerâ€ â€“ and a source of confusion in Europe where â€œbioâ€ means certified natural farming. Whatâ€™s the name to be? – â€œPlant Charcoalâ€ (â€œPflanzenkohle â€“ itâ€™s more accurateâ€).