Biochar for Soil Fertility with DIY Char Box Design



Growing up as a falconer, I climbed every hawk nest I could find at a young age. It was, therefore, natural that I would become a tree trimmer and later a tree service owner and now former certified arborist. This, by the way, is a certification program which is recognized as an expert witness for the U.S. Judicial system. Whenever I had a sick, infected or infested tree, I would call on an associate to return the vigor and vitality of my client’s trees. We would do this with a nearly 100 percent success rate, all without chemical fertilizers.

Soil Building with Mycorrhizal Fungi

Take soil compaction, for example; a common landscape malady. He would either hand dig or use an auger to drill 2-inch diameter holes in the drip line and backfill it with a recipe of fecal fertilizer, worm castings, and Mycorrhizal fungi spores. The worm castings have eggs and larvae in them which hatch when moistened. They feed on the fecal material, grow and spread, conditioning the soil as they do so taking the microbes with them in their gut and on their bodies.

These fungi and other microbes live on the net like absorbing root tips called the "rhizome". The fungi break down coarse minerals to the molecular level — what I term "chewing up” the minerals, just as we use our teeth to process food. These minerals in a rainwater solution are now available and absorbed by the plants, helping them grow and compete with the neighboring trees and other plants for sunlight. The plants in turn provide the fungi with a place to live and food in the form of sloughed off dead cells. You will later see the mushroom caps coming up in the compacted soil.

Discovering Biochar for Soil Fertility

Unfortunately, my associate is now no longer with us. I had to perform that function myself. This at a time when I had just heard about an ancient soil fertility component called biochar. I began developing my own "activated" (inoculated) biochar and added to the organic tree health drip line mix.

Forests grow up, mature, become over mature and ultimately burn. That is the regeneration cycle, the "great circle of stuff" that the sage swine Poomba taught us about in The Lion King. The charred remains of the forest lie on its floor to become soil over and over as the cycle repeats itself. All species of plants and animals are evolved to utilize any and all resources at any stage of the regeneration cycle.

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