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Biochar (bought) needs to be INFUSED with nutrients before you can use it??

 
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I was busy earning money for the farm, so I had no time to make my own biochar for the delivery of my fruit trees. So I bought it from a wholesaler.

I am at the farm now, been working hard to clear the future fruit orchard of twigs and cuttings. The delivery is tomorrow.

So I took the bags of biochar from the shed to pile them where I will need them tomorrow. And read the label.

"Biochar aggressively sucks all nutrients from the soil and thus shoul never be used before infusing it with a nutrient solution". They sell the required nutrien solution.

The biochar is made of birch.

Can this be true?

 
pollinator
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Sounds about right.  Lots of places advise not amending the hole when planting new trees.  You want the tree to acclimate for a year, then go in search of nutrients, so you have time.  Do you have a ready source of livestock manure or other nitrogen rich material?  If so, mix the char with the material and make compost just like normal, then spread it on the ground around the tree as it grows.  Human urine also works well to “charge” the biochar if you so desire.
 
Kaarina Kreus
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No, sadly, the only livestock is me. I will probably move to the farm next year. Then I can take on the responsibility for chickens and lambs.

OK. So I should pee into thr biochar bucket to get the biochar charged?

 
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I have used 1part pee 10 part water.  Put the bio char in a bucket and pour the fertilizer slowly over the char.  Let it soak stir it a couple times.   Leave it in the bucket a couple hours.  I normally leave it over night.  Tom
 
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I don't know if it was a good idea or not but I also added blackstrap molasses when I tried charging wood charcoal.  It is a new experiment as of this spring to try biochar.  I won't make up my mind till I watch the bed for a few years.  At the very least it doesn't seem to have hurt anything so far.
 
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We use straight pee on our biochar sifted from the wood stove ash. Char has a very high capacity for holding nutrients. We also drink a lot of water so it's not too concentrated to begin with. If it's just you and a lot of char, dilution is your best bet to get something on all the char.
 
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"Biochar aggressively sucks all nutrients from the soil and thus should never be used before infusing it with a nutrient solution"



Biochar is pyrolysis-created charcoal that is used as a soil amendment. That's all. It's ground-up charcoal.

Charcoal's main molecular feature is that it slurps up small molecules around it like an ultra-dense black-hole-like sponge. Except, unlike a black hole, charcoal does have an upper-limit to how much it can suck up.
Once it sucks up as many nutrients as it can hold, then it plateaus out and then begins to degrade again - slowwwwwwly releasing those nutrients into its surroundings.
It's why you see 'biochar' also being sold as 'activated charcoal for plants' - because that's exactly what it is.

By putting charcoal into your compost pile (or into a bucket of nutrient slurry), you can ensure that the nutritious molecules that fungi and bacteria need to enrich your soil are held in place, by being captured inside the carbon structure of the charcoal.  Instead of being washed out by the rain, the charcoal is a slow-release reserve of nutrients. Then, when the bacteria/fungi finish processing their meal and poot out a little bit of slightly-more-broken-down molecular food, nearby plants get a very steady stream of bioavailable nutrients - and the excess nutrients the plants don't use are sucked up again by the carbon shelves of charcoal that were recently emptied by bacteria/fungi, until the shelves break down entirely.

Basically, Charcoal is a molecular pantry.
You 'Charge' it, or 'Stock' it, and turn it into biochar by soaking charcoal in nutrients that microflora crave.
This stockpiles nutrients in a place that won't rinse away as easily as free-floating molecules would.

Pretty much all charcoal, molecularly, can become biochar.  (Charcoal is wood coal & ash, not to be confused with coal, which is a burnable rock mined from the ground)
Wood becomes charcoal when you heat it up to high temps when there's little to no oxygen. The wood partially combusts, removing water & other stuff, leaving behind nearly pure carbon.

By putting un-stocked/un-charged 'biochar' (aka charcoal) into your garden, the charcoal shelves stock themselves by sucking nutrients out of nearby soils - usually depleting them entirely. (ouch)

That's why we soak it in compost or nutrient solution first.
Personally, I don't call it 'bio-char' until after it's been soaked in compost or whatever nutrient slurry you want to soak it in.  Before that, it's just fine wood charcoal for MAKING biochar.

Selling charcoal & nutrient solution separately, and calling the former 'biochar' is like selling a betty crocker box of dry cake mix and calling it a wedding cake, and then reminding you to also buy eggs & milk as if it's an aside rather than a key ingredient of, y'know, having an edible cake in exchange for money.
 
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Yes, there are many things you can add to charcoal to inoculate it.  Charcoal for burning in a store usually still has some wood in it. For a soil amendment and to sequester carbon, we don't want wood in it.  I also only call it biochar after it's been crushed and inoculated, as do many others.  I might call it just char beforehand.  

Urine is an excellent inoculator to give it nutrients, but there are many others.  Seaweed, rotten fruit, compost tea, ag lime (which is really cheap to buy), worm compost, regular compost, rotten wood/mycelium, and whole wheat flour are some that I add.  Yes, I would also add black strap molasses if you had some. Basically, anything nutritious and organic is good to add to it.

Everything they said about it sucking the nutrients out of the soil until it reaches a homeostasis a year or two later is true.  I never just put uninoculated char into my garden.

John S
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