Biochar: a sustainable solution for agriculture and environment

24 June, 2015
CNR Departments involved: 


Coordinator: Franco Miglietta
Institute of Biometeorology (IBIMET)


Humanity is facing on three big challenges: food, energy and environment.  We must "nourish the planet", as the subtitle of Expo2015 emphasizes, but at the same time we must find an alternative to the fossil sources of energy because those are rapidly leading to major changes in the earth's climate. But it seems that solutions to one of the problems, may finally exacerbate the other.  To increase the global production of food more energy is required; the production of renewable energy from biomass substracts land to the production of food and interferes with nutreint cycling and to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from the agricultural sector intensification should be avoided with consequent yield reductions.

The event BiocharEXPO 2015 will enable specialists and non-specialists to learn about an  innovation, Biochar, that is a small but interesting step towards sustainability or the harmonization and the convergence of three challenges cited. But what is Biochar?  It's basically charcoal,  or the "charcoal slack" that every barbecue lover  knows well. In technical terms, Biochar is the carbonaceous residue of the thermochemical transformation of organic material, in absence of oxygen; the byproduct of a reaction called pyrolisis.  And pyrolysis  produces energy via an inflammable gas that can be used like fuel (the syngas).

Recently, also rediscovering ancient practices,  we understood that Biochar is an excellent amendant for agriculture; it favors the production of crops by improving the soil, preserving water and retaining nutrients.  But it does even more, because the Carbon which it contains is not degraded in the soil thus leading to the sequestration of  a significant fraction of the the Carbon previously contained in the atmospheric CO2 that the plants assimilated via photosynthesis.  A surprising solution, indeed, capable of increasing food prodution while generating renewable energy from crop residues and  fighting  climate change through Carbon-sequestration. That's why Biochar is  "triple-win" strategy or a  "carbon negative" solution.

The  BiocharEXPO 2015 event will provide the opportunity of to know and to learn more about such an intriguing  story, understanding  facts and knowing the key players.   Two lectures from reputed scientists will open the show.  That it will the continue with an exhibition organized in the gardens of the Faculty of Agriculture of the university of Milan (Città Studi). This will involve players from energy, agriculture and industry. But it will be also a way to know some of 55 different uses of  Biochar, that have to do with our everydays's life. Of today and of tomorrow.


Locandina Biochar