by Duane Stjernholm
What Is Biochar?
Biochar is a type of carbon created by applying heat to organic material. Wood is the most commonly used material to create biochar, but other substances such as straw, corn stalks, and hemp stalks can also be used. Biochar is made by heating this organic material while starving it of oxygen — which would instead create flames and reduce the plant matter to ash — to produce a highly permeable, absorbent, carbon-rich biomass.① This process is called pyrolysis.
“The history of biochar dates back thousands of years to a civilization in the Amazon Basin where extensive regions of dark highly fertile soil know as terra preta (Portuguese for “black earth”) have been discovered and analyzed, revealing high concentrations of charcoal and organic matter, such as plant and animal remains. Found only within inhabited areas, the presence of terra preta indicates that humans were deliberately responsible for its creation. It is theorized by soil scientists that the ancient Amazonians used a “slash-and-char” process to develop this rich soil.”② With slash-and-char, plant material, crop remains, animal remains and even human waste were ignited and buried to smolder (rather than burn) which produced the carbon now commonly referred to as “biochar”. This process left the carbon of the burned material creating a hospitable environment for beneficial micro-organisms that nurture plants. This subsequently transformed the degraded soil to fertile soil. The micro-organisms do not eat this biochar, but it serves as more of a microbiome condominium that they live in. Biochar also retains moisture so it also provides the aquatic environment that these micro-organisms need to remain active and subsequently provide the necessary nutrients for optimum plant growth. The biochar is a long term carbon as it is still in the soil 3,000 years later in the Amazon. The short term carbon that the micro-organisms eat to produce the nutrients for plants is supplied by the other dead plant materials in the soil that has not been pyrolysed and is readily available for their use. It is small wonder that the hemp growers like biochar. In outdoor trials, the various strains saw flower yields jump from 20 to 107 percent when blended biochar was applied.③ “By using hemp biochar as a soil conditioner farmers can increase water retention, decreasing the amount needed, especially in drier climates and keeping nutrients in the ground, preventing runoff, and increasing crop yields, while reducing inputs. Water and quality soil are becoming scarce resources, they are also agriculture’s most vital resources and we all want to protect them for the future of America”④ and the World.
“Biochar is a soil amendment designed to reintroduce nutrients and microorganisms back into the soil to increase fertility, increase the soil’s water holding capacity, remove toxins from soils, and ultimately sequester carbon, which is an imperative action to be taken in order to combat the effects of climate change and mitigate the forthcoming unprecedented changes to our planet” (Yu, Harper, Hoepfl and Domermuth, 2017) ⑤ Biochar is characterized “by high specific surfaces of more than 300 m2 per gram, distributed over countless nano-, micro-and meso-pores. The ability of these pores to store water makes biochar a very efficient medium for storing moisture. The pores also trap large quantities of practically immobile air; with the result that biochar constitutes one of the best currently known insulation materials.”⑥
Hemp Biochar (CannaChar™/HempChar™)
There is still much research to be done on hemp biochar for soil remediation and other uses. The quality of any biochar varies dependent on the type of organic material from which it is produced, the temperature of the pyrolysis process, and the length of time the material was “cooked”. If biochar is made using high temperatures it is not as suitable for soil remediation because all of the cracks and crevices that the microbiome like to occupy are not as readily created under those high temperature and long cooking duration variables. Also for hemp biochar (or any biochar) if it is added to soil without being “charged” with the appropriate microbiome that foster plant growth, it may initially have a detrimental effect on plant growth until there is a build-up of more beneficial microbiome. Although not technically “approved” by the USDA for use as a feed supplement, a natural way of “charging” biochar is to add a small portion to animal feed in a commercial feedlot and as it moves through the animal’s digestive system it picks up some of the beneficial microbiome that is needed to facilitate plant growth. This coupled with covering the ground of the feedlot also naturally infuses the biochar with microbiome. Then, the biochar and the manure mix that covers the ground of the feedlot can be collected and returned to the arable soil or put into a compost procedure that creates a concentrated liquid form of natural fertilizer. An added bonus of feeding and spreading any biochar on the ground of the feedlot corrals is that due to its absorbency, the biochar will decrease the odor of the feedlot and additionally retain moisture which cuts down the ever present ubiquitous dust generated in commercial feeding facilities. Using biochar in this way produces an excellent natural fertilizer containing long term carbon, short term carbon, and microbiome.
Turning Waste into Value
In Colorado and many other states, the nascent Cannabis/Hemp industry has been focused on the medicinal and recreational benefits of the versatile Cannabis plant. All Hemp is Cannabis, but not all Cannabis is Hemp only because of bureaucratic statutes that define hemp as different from Cannabis. The medicinal side and recreational side of the Cannabis plant definitely have their places and will continue to be a big part of the Cannabis/Hemp economy. However, this side of the industry only uses a portion of the plant and its focus is mainly on the flower. These states have tons of stalks and extracted biomass going to waste because no one quite knows what to do with it. By turning this “waste” into CannaChar™/HempChar™ we can produce something that has value and utility for the above mentioned purposes of soil remediation, water filtration and even bio-plastics and building materials. With our portable biochar oven we can go directly to where all this “waste” is stored and create our CannaChar™/HempChar™ on the spot, cleaning up the waste and adding value to the growers’ crops. The Colorado Hemp Processing Cooperative is currently seeking Shareholders and Strategic Partners who want to help us do this as we will need a small army of portable biochar ovens to cover the wild, wild west as well as all of the other Hemp/Cannabis producing states and countries. Please contact us if you are interested in partnering with us in this manner at [email protected]COHPC.ORG.
Multiple Other Uses and Benefits
“The latest developments at the Ithaka Institute are now focusing on its use as a building material. Why? As well as having excellent insulating properties, improving air quality, being able to soak up moisture and protect from radiation, biochar also allows buildings to be turned into carbon sinks. Every ton of biochar used in a building’s envelope means that the equivalent of more or less one ton of CO2 is prevented from re-entering the atmosphere.” ⑥
Here is a partial list of the benefits of using biochar plaster:
“Positive effects of biochar plaster
• Humidity regulation
• Noise protection
• Binding of toxins (volatile organic compounds)
• Protection against electromagnetic radiation
• Less electrostatic charging
• Conservation of wood
• Less dust (mites!)
• Anti-bacterial, fungicide
• Air-cleaning • Carbon Sequestration” ⑥
In addition to soil remediation and building materials, biochar can also be used for cleaning “grey water”, as an absorber in sports clothing, in batteries, a livestock food additive as mentioned above, fresh water filtration, bio-plastics, and other building materials. These and the numerous other possibilities for the use of Hemp Biochar (CannaChar™/HempChar ™) are still being explored and investigated. It can possibly be used as a precursor for activated carbon, cosmetic applications, coal replacement, a bio-composite additive, plastic reinforcement additive, and as an organic growth medium. Out of all these possibilities, the most beneficial uses will probably be for the afore mentioned soil remediation, water filtration, bio-plastics and possibly electrical storage in batteries and bast based supercapacitors.
An additional bonus in the production of biochar is that we are able to produce it in modern biochar ovens utilizing 21st Century technology. This technology can capture the Syngas released during the pyrolysis process. Syngas is a combination of Hydrogen, Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Nitrogen. Syngas can be filtered and compressed and used like propane for the production of electricity. In addition, the excess heat produced by the pyrolysis process can be captured using a 20th Century technology called a Tesla Turbine (Developed and patented in 1913 by Nikola Tesla) and this excess heat can also utilized to produce electricity.
Tesla turbine at Nikola Tesla Museum ⑦
Turning Waste into Value
The time is right to explore and expand the many possible uses of hemp biochar. For CannaChar™/HempChar™ to be of benefit to the greatest and highest good, we should look at substituting renewable biochar as an alternative to unsustainable and non-renewable petroleum based products to help clean up our planet, our air, our water, and promote a more healthy environment.
Here is a more detailed list of other products that can probably utilize CannaChar™/HempChar™:
Food and Beverage Products
Coffee Cup Sleeves
Farm and Garden
Leaf Litter Bags
Seedling Starter Pots
Weed Barrier Cloth
Soil Remediation and Enhancement
Animal Food Supplement (needs Federal Approval)
Soil Moisture Retention
Home and Office
Kitchen Waste Compost Bags
Biodegradable Disposal Bags
Biodegradable Kidney Dishes
Patient Gowns and Slippers
Surgical Attire (Mask and Caps)
Underpads and Exam Table Paper
In and Outboxes
Bird Cage Liners
Fish Tank Filters
Kitty Litter Liners
Wee Wee Pads
Casket Liners and Crypts
Carbon Black Replacement in Batteries
Other Benefits Of Hemp and Hemp Biochar
High Insulation Properties
Low Electrostatic Charging of Air
Conservation of Wood
Increased Oxygen Production
Reduction of Dust and Dust Mites
Mold and Mildew Resistant
Restoration After Floods
Electromagnetic Radiation Shielding
Radioactive Soil and Water Remediation
Digestive Tract Health for Humans and Animals
To help us on this Mission to create for the Greatest and Highest Good, we need your Help. The Colorado Hemp Processing Cooperative (CHPC) was formed to bring Economic Stimulus to Rural America and we need your help to get it done. The CHPC is a true Cooperative organized as a Limited Cooperative Association, the 21st Century version of the more traditional Cooperative. We are on the forefront of changing the current negative competitive mindset to a positive mindset of Cooperation and Collaboration. The current competitive mindset has glaringly shown us that it is not sustainable. If it was, we wouldn’t have all these pollutants in our air, our soil, our water, our clothing and our food. The Collaborative mindset is sustainable but we need to unite and make it happen together. We’re not asking anyone to do it alone, but you can join us and make it happen together by becoming a CHPC Shareholder at COHPC.ORG. Patron Shares are only $100 and we need thousands of you to join us to do the work that needs to be done to Co-Create our planet into the Edenic Utopia it has the potential to be. Thank you for your Collaboration and Support!♥