June 16, 2011 | General


BioCycle June 2011, Vol. 52, No. 6, p. 19

As a subscriber to BioCycle I am a regular reader of Sally Brown’s column, “Climate Change Connections.” In every case except this one, I have found Dr. Brown’s approach to be well researched and well reasoned. I own a small compost operation, and have been gardening organically for 40 years. I recently attended a workshop at which Albert Bates, a recognized researcher and author on climate and the environment, presented a very convincing talk and slide show on biochar.
I was quite upset when I read the April Climate Change Connection column (“Carbon Cycling 101”) trashing biochar as a beneficial soil amendment. One of its main benefits is microbe housing. While it is true that without proper pretreating with compost, biochar will deprive the soil in the short term. But its long-term benefits are described as incredible. Then there is the sequestration benefit that Dr. Brown does not even mention. We can char enough wood and bury it to make a difference. Of course this must be done on a massive scale, and would take a decade or more. I would like this email to be a Letter to the Editor so I could challenge this with the entire readership of BioCycle, a readership that if they like Dr. Brown’s writing as much as I do, will now have a very poor impression of biochar, and will not work for its use and advancement. I highly recommend Bates’ book, The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change.
As a dedicated reader, I urge you to give this issue/topic another look and at least give us a more balanced discussion on the subject.

Glenn Christman – Gentle Arborist
Nashville, Tennessee

Thanks so much for your letter. In addition to publishing your letter, I have suggested to BioCycle that the members of the Seattle biochar group that I wrote about in the April column be given a guest column to present an alternative perspective on biochar. I will keep reading the peer review literature on biochar as it is published and promise a column with a different perspective when those studies convince me it is merited.

Sally Brown
University of Washington

Editor’s Note
Following an email to Sally Brown from Jim Grob, a representative of Seachar, and Dr. Brown’s suggestion of offering Seachar an opportunity to respond, BioCycle reached out to Seachar to write a Commentary on the benefits of biochar. The Commentary is scheduled to run in the July 2011 issue, and will discuss properties of biochar that make it a compelling opportunity for combination with compost, green manures, and biosolids; biochar characteristics and interaction in various soils; limitations in terms of commercial production; and examples of its use.

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