Farm waste charcoal may help farmers lock up soil carbon

A Welsh farmer who is producing a type of charcoal which locks up carbon in soil says others could do more to convert farm and forestry waste materials into this resource.

Welsh upland farmer Tony Davies believes biochar use is likely to become more widespread in British farming

Tony Davies removes Molinia grass from land on Henfron Farm, a 680-hectare upland farm in Elan Valley, Cambrian Mountains.

The fifth-generation tenant processes it to produce biochar, a charcoal used to enhance the fertility and water retention capabilities of soil.

Removing this grass improves biodiversity, reduces fire risk and improves habitats for the golden plover whilst the biochar is sold on a small scale to gardeners and horticulturists.

When biochar is added to soil, it locks up carbon: “Biochar has been proven by academics worldwide to be a useful method of increasing carbon sequestration as it resists degradation and can lock up carbon in soil for thousands of years," he said.

Mr Davies said he was keen to understand more about opportunities for biochar production in Wales and its use in farming.

He received a Farming Connect Management Exchange bursary to expand his knowledge, which allowed him to visit Finland, Sweden and Ireland where he met experts.

He said with the right policies and financial incentives, biochar use was likely to become more widespread in agriculture, primarily as a method of increasing carbon sequestration.

“Agriculture in Wales has a range of waste products which could be utilised for processing into biochar," Mr Davies added.

“As well as making biochar for on-farm use, farmers are perfectly placed to produce biochar for use in urban areas."

Source: Farming UK