Deterioration of soil quality has its own share of contribution to poor crop yields in India. In order to avoid further degradation, it is important for the farmers to adopt good agricultural practices. One such practice is application of biochar as soil conditioner. Biochar is a black, carbon-rich (60 – 70%) charcoal-like porous substance produced from thermal decomposition (pyrolysis) of biological wastes (e.g. wood, agricultural biomass waste, industrial residues, energy crops, manures etc.) in the absence of oxygen at relatively low temperature 300 – 400°C using specially designed portable kiln / retort. In recent years, there is an increasing interest in applying biochar as soil amendment in agriculture as it enhances the soil fertility by altering the following soil properties:
Enhanced fertility due to biochar addition contributes to improved plant growth and crop yield, besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions by means of sequestration particularly Carbon. MCRC has developed a process for biochar production from 60 different locally available agricultural / perishable / industrial biomass wastes using simple portable kiln. Large-scale field demonstrations using biochar as soil conditioner has been conducted in different dry land crops like sesame, black gram, finger millet, pearl millet, sorghum, wet land crops like paddy & vegetables and, tree plants such as Tectona grandis (Teak), Melia dubia (Malai Vembu), Gmelina arborea (Kumizh), Mango & Guava. Fields applied with biochar have shown improved soil organic carbon, increased water holding capacity, soil microbial population along with retention of soil nutrients and increased crop yield in the range between 10 and 30%.