Rob Stevens, a principal at Core Design, was not expecting to find anything too unusual one year ago while skimming through a National Geographic titled “Soils” Link . That day Rob learned about something called Terra Preta, a material discovered in the ancient soils of the Central Amazon Rainforest. This man-made addition to the soil was created by burning wood and other plants at low temperatures creating a byproduct rich in carbon. The byproduct today called agrichar or biochar, is extremely porous allowing a surface area for nutrients to affix; the more carbon present means more spaces in which nutrients can attach. This process allowed the ancient Amazonians to create soil rich in nutrients which in turn, allowed for quick growing crops.
What is also interesting about Terra Preta is that this ancient soil is still holding onto its CO2 content 5,000 years later. This is leading scientists to consider the possibility of sequestering CO2 and the even more destructive NO2, as a way to store greenhouse gasses.
Since that fateful day one year ago, biochar has quickly become an interest of Rob’s that he shares with his permaculture class promoting urban agriculture. Rob has also volunteered with the Seattle Biochar Working Group dedicated to the research of biochar. He is currently assisting “SeaChar” with their test garden site determining the productivity of corn and soy crops with and without the addition of biochar. Rob also makes his own biochar in his wood stove at home, that he uses in his own garden.