Biochar is a valuable soil amendment. It has gained much attention in recent years for its ability 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 has suddenly sprouted dozens of innovative applications and benefits.
Researchers and farmers are have discovered many new uses for biochar, 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
• 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 when it is added to their food. Farmers and scientists around the globe are investigating the use of biochar in livestock production. In the European Union, biochar is carefully defined and approved for use in agriculture, with most fed to livestock or spread on farmland with manure.
This article mainly addresses poultry production, but similar issues and opportunities face other livestock producers. Research from several countries shows that adding one to three 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.