New book explains the power of biochar and its role in restorative agriculture

The second edition of the potentially world-changing book Biochar for Environmental Management: Science, Technology and Implementation has been published.

The book offers a substantial update to the first, published in 2009, which provided a comprehensive review of the expanding research literature on the topic. Since then the rate of research activity has increased at least ten-fold and biochar products are now commercially available as soil amendments.

The second edition, written by Johannes Lehmann and Stephen Joseph, includes not only substantial updates to existing chapters but also additional chapters on: environmental risk assessment; new uses of biochar in composting and potting mixes; a new and controversial field of studying the effects of biochar on soil carbon cycles; traditional uses, including the very recent discoveries that biochar was used not only in the Amazon but also in Africa and Asia; on changes in water availability and soil water dynamics; and on sustainability and certification.

According to its publishers, the Routledge imprint of Taylor and Francis, this book continues to represent the most comprehensive compilation of current knowledge on all aspects of biochar.

Biochar is the carbon-rich product that is produced when biomass (such as wood, manure or crop residues) is heated to the point of chemical change, or pyrolised, in a closed container with little or no available air. It can be used to improve agriculture and the environment in several ways, and its persistence and nutrient-retaining properties make it an ideal soil amendment for increasing crop yields.

But there’s more. When added to soils, biochar sequesters carbon, meaning that if it’s made from sustainable biomass sources, the process is carbon-negative and can be deployed to actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, with potentially major implications for mitigation of climate change. Biochar production can also be combined with bio-energy production if use is made of the flammable gases given off in the pyrolysis process.

‘With its careful evaluation of every aspect of biochar, this book represents a cornerstone of our future global sustainability. I’m convinced that its message is every bit as important as that of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and potentially every bit as politically powerful as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. If it finds a wide enough readership, it will change our world forever, and very much for the better.’ – Tim Flannery, climate change activist and author ofThe Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change.

More information: Biochar for Environmental Management: Science, Technology and Implementation, 2nd Edition; paperback; by Johannes Lehmann and Stephen Joseph.
Publication date: 19 February 2015; pages: 944pp; price: GBP £99.50.
ISBN number: 978-0-415-70415-1

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