This recently discovered, and under appreciated, form of carbon crystal structure has been added to the list which includes:
coal - anthracite to peat
charcoal, lump and briquette
Biochar is created by pyrolysis in extreme oxygen deprivation which yields a shiny, jet black substance which is brittle and light weight. It is extremely chemically stable and has been observed in the Amazon River basin to last thousands of years in the soil. It is extremely porous, suggesting a lattice-like structure that enhances a seemingly enzymatic-like property, as one finds little, if any, chemical decomposition of the biochar.
Mechanisms of its miraculous properties are not as yet scientifically understood, but it is observed to hold large amounts of moisture, and adjusts soil pH upwards, seemingly “unlocking” many soil nutrients in what have been previously described as infertile soils. It seemingly stabilizes soil, acting to prevent leaching of critical plant nutrients, yet simultaneously holds them available for plant uptake. It is observed to “unlock” potash in large amounts. In tests it acts to reduce Chlordane and DDX uptakes in plants by 68% and 79%. In other tests in has reduced both nitrous oxide and methane emissions by up to 80%. It reduces leaching of E.coli and salmonella from the soils.
It is porous and extremely light weight, which creates a wonderful environment for beneficial soil organisms.
Biochar may be a key to locking away CO2 gas. When scrap wood products are properly pyrolized copious amounts of biochar are produced and a net energy gain of syn-gas and bio-oil is realized.
Biochar may prove to be a carbon “sink” or storage that the world so desperately needs to fight CO2 pollution of our atmospere. The storage of biochar does not depend upon the effort or expense of trying to bury CO2 in caves, wells or mineshafts. Instead it can be used on our fields to increase crop production.
The negative: it probably reduces the effectiveness of pesticides.
Link to Wikipedia - biochar