Organic farmers have long been the pioneers of new growing methods that maintain productivity without a cocktail of chemicals. And the most popular and, arguably, most effective new tool in their armoury? Biochar. As its popularity grows, suppliers are eager to jump on the bandwagon – however growers are warned that not all biochars are created equal.
Biochar is a one-off addition that keeps on benefiting all year – keeping soil microbial communities dynamic and effective all the way through to harvest. With measurably increased yield increases and more resilient, consistently cropping plants, it’s the newest horticultural breakthrough that cannot be ignored. As with any innovation, growers are advised to check the provenance of their biochar and industry regulators resoundingly point towards Carbon Gold for a clean, organic product.
Healthier, more productive plants
Organic tomato growers who add Carbon Gold’s enriched biochar to their soil have seen dramatically reduced levels of root-eating nematodes, phytophthora and botrytis; and as a result, yield increases going into double figures. At the same time, they have been able to use fertiliser inputs more cost-effectively as biochar helps retain nutrients in the upper levels of soil where they nourish the plant.
Dutch growers Oirschot Organics have been relying on enriched biochar to solve a number of common problems that are tricky to treat without chemicals. Jorrit Jonkers, their Co-owner says;
“At Oirschot Organics we grow a number of vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, aubergines and courgettes. Because our crops are organic, there aren’t many natural Skal approved products that can also negate the damage caused by soil pests such as nematodes, or foliar issues such as botrytis, which have reduced yields in the past.
“Biochar is an organic product which is perfect for our operation and after the first year of using it, we saw an unprecedented 10-15% increase in yield. Carbon Gold Soil Improver is now a permanent part of our organic systems – we use it in all our propagation pots and in the soil.”
Results have been so impressive that growers who operate both organic and conventional operations have begun using biochar on their non-organic production too, including in coir, rockwool and peat. Plug plants raised in biochar propagation mediums are more vigorous and establish more quickly upon transplanting.
Gold standard biochar
As demand grows, Carbon Gold’s Commercial Director, James MacPhail warns innovative horticulturalists to;
“Steer clear of char from unscrupulous sources made of non-plant carbon material such as manure, sewage sludge or biosolid waste, rubber, plastic and construction waste, or char that hasn’t been through lab chemical analyses. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for – Carbon Gold are the only suppliers of Skal approved enriched biochar, which means not only can you trust what you’re putting into your soil, you can trust it will get results.
Carbon Gold’s biochar is unique in that it is made from sustainably sourced, untreated woody biomass. Every batch is subject to rigorous chemical analysis to meet International Biochar Institute standards and conforms to EU regulations for PCB, PAH and other toxicants. It also complies with the requirements of Dutch fertiliser legislation concerning the maximum content of heavy metals and of organic contaminants, particularly PACs.”
Carbon Gold, Europe’s leading supplier of enriched biochar products, is proud of its internationally recognised organic certifications. The UK based company not only boasts Soil Association approval for organic growing and is approved for use in Demeter / biodynamic farming and growing by the UK Biodynamic Association, it also conforms to organic control authority Skal’s recently enhanced definition of biochar on The Dutch inputs list, produced in co-operation by Skal and FiBL. Carbon Gold is also a corporate member of LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), working with farmers across the globe to deliver more sustainable food and farming.
Less chemistry, more biology
Biochar enables organic growers to gain competitive advantage, without the need for chemical inputs. It provides a refuge for essential, beneficial soil microorganisms, such as mycorrhizal fungi and actinomycetes bacteria, which help maintain the stability of a growing system by out-competing pests and pathogens – creating the optimum root environment for healthy, resilient plants. For growers to get off to a running start, Carbon Gold pre-treats raw biochar with optimum blends of Mycorrhizal fungi and Trichoderma. A one-off soil treatment at the start of the season is proven to keep microbial populations active throughout the year.