Biochar is seen as a valuable soil amendment and much attention has been placed on using biochar to boost soil fertility and microbiology, upgrade soil structure and accelerate plant growth. Amid a rising tide of research and trials, what was once mostly fuel or water filtration media suddenly sprouted dozens of innovative applications and benefits.
New biochar uses are being discovered, including:
- Stormwater management and treatment;
- Phosphorus traps to reduce water pollution;
- Nitrogen traps to reduce ammonia and nitrate pollution;
- Reclamation of mine tailings;
- Building material blended with cement, mortar, plaster, etc.;
- Electronic microwave shielding;
- Electron storage and release as a “super-capacitor”;
- Carbon fiber textiles for odor-absorbent clothing; and
- Carbon nanofibers to replace plastic and metal.
Livestock farming is offering a new and growing area of unexpected uses for biochar. Animals from earthworms to chickens, cattle and even monkeys, show shrewd interest in biochar added to their food. Farmers and scientists around the globe have investigated the use of biochar in livestock production. In the European Union, biochar is carefully defined and approved for use in agriculture. Currently, most is fed to livestock and then spread on land with manure.
This article mainly addresses poultry production, but similar issues and opportunities face other livestock producers. Research from several countries shows that adding 1 to 3 percent biochar to cattle feed improves feed efficiency by 28 percent, reduces methane by 25 percent and increases rate of weight gain by 20 percent. Continue Reading →