Biochar Myths, Truths, and Misunderstandings
A lot of misleading information often gets circulated around when a product is not fully understood. We hope the following will clear up some. This includes not only years of documented studies on biochar enriched soils, but our own testing and analysis from 8 months of study and research on TOP APPLYING biochar to turf.
HUMICHAR ™ is the only lawn biochar product on the market that can be:
1) Uniformly applied to a lawn, in proper poundage via a standard lawn spreader.
2) Reach down through the thatch layer within minutes of being watered.
3) Ground fine enough to allow for soil penetration.
4) Is mixed 50/50 with Humic Acid for fast results.
TRUTH #1 – The ONLY way biochar can have ANY impact (positive or negative) is when it is deep in the soil surrounding the roots.
True, plants take up 90% + of their nutrients via the roots that are generally 4 – 20 inches deep in the soil. If the Biochar IS NOT THAT DEEP TOO… and surrounding the roots, it will have little to no impact on the plant. When using biochar in vegetable and flower gardens you will be TILLING deep into the soil, with lawns you will be TOP applying. These are two TOTALLY different application methods.
So, when some makes a statement about WHAT biochar is doing… ask yourself or them this… WHERE IS THE BIOCHAR? If it’s NOT around the roots of the plant then any CLAIM about biochar ACTION they make is false. Did they pull a soil plug down to 12″ and find biochar deep? If they top applied it the answer will be NO.
Remember the #1 rule of biochar… if it’s NOT surrounding the ROOTS of a plant… it provides no benefits, regardless of any other actions taken or not taken.
TRUTH #2 – Biochar must be very fine when applied to lawns / turf.
True, since we are not TILLING the soil, the biochar must be small enough to naturally pass through the layers of soil. This is a SLOW process and our studies show that most will see 1 – 2” of depth penetration per year. Larger biochar simply can NOT even get through the thatch layer of lawns and if undisturbed, will remain there for years and years never entering the soil root zone.
(The image below is from one of our controlled studies measuring biochar movement through turf.)
Myth #1 – Top applied (turf) Biochar SUCKS the nutrients out of soil.
FALSE: Mainly because it never starts to reach the root zones until months and months after application. The soil penetration is a slow process, only moving about 1-2” inches per year. Within the first 7 to 20 days, TOP applied biochar will naturally pre-load, inoculate, and charge itself while sitting below in the thatch layer. This is where much of our fertilizer rests and the some of the heaviest microbial action in our lawns. NOTE: biochar does not SUCK nutrients from soils. If nutrient molecules are present around the biochar, they will have a tendency to bond to it and be available to the roots of the plant. Biochar helps prevent the leeching / loss of these nutrients.
Myth #2 – Biochar must be pre-loaded, inoculated, and charged for it to help the soil and plant.
FALSE (depending on the usage) If TILLING biochar deep into soils such as gardens, then yes. If you want to see immediate results mix biochar into your healthy mulch mix (video coming soon) and allow to pre-loaded nutrients and microbes. Then till that biochar loaded mulch into your soils. This will give you YEAR ONE benefits. Otherwise you may not see garden / crop results until year 2.
However, if TOP applying to lawns, refer to TRUTH 1 and 2. Biochar will NOT be around the roots for weeks and will self-charge and inoculate while sitting below the thatch layer slowly penetrating the upper layers of soil. It will load with NATURAL microbes and bacteria and also draw some of the nutrients from fertilizer we apply. If desired, you can spray the HUMICHAR™ with Super Juice immediately after applying. However, this is not a necessary step.
UNDERSTAND THIS POINT: The above is referencing the characteristics and behavior of BIOCHAR… NOT a fertilizer that contains biochar. Benefits from ADDED NITROGEN are from the added nitrogen and NOT the natural behavior of biochar. Keep the two separate.
TRUTH #3 – Adding both biochar and organic matter helps your plants.
True. Biochar will increase the microbial activity in your lawn. Microbes need organic matter to survive and produce natural “lawn food”. Adding organic matter will supply the microbes with FOOD, and allow them to produce nutrients for your lawn and soil.
MYTH #3 – You should always top apply biochar only when applying fertilizer.
FALSE: The majority of lawn fertilizers are SLOW release. Meaning once they are applied they slowly release TOP DOWN into the soil. When you apply a LAWN BIOCHAR such as HUMICHAR it will pass through these the upper layers of nutrients and have PLENTY of nutrients to charge / pre-load.
MYTH #4 – You must inoculate your biochar when top applying.
FALSE: Inoculating biochar means adding microbes, good bacteria, and good fungi. There are billions and billions of these already present in most lawns and no need to add more. Again, the TOP APPLIED biochar will self-inoculate in the first 7 – 20 days as it passes into the soil. If tilling in to garden soils then YES… this will help with first year results.
TRUE AND FALSE…
A great time to put down biochar is when you aerate your lawn. Somewhat true. While aerating does put holes in your lawn it’s a VERY small percentage of area. (This is why it has very little impact on pre-emergents) If you want to apply after aerating, do so right away and pick up your plugs. Then water your lawn heavily which will force the biochar into the aeration holes.
MYTH #5 – You should only use biochar that has nutrients loaded in it.
VERY FALSE: Biochar is a unique product that has a specific role in our soils. DO NOT confuse fertilizing with the implementation of a biochar program. Top applied biochar must be put down at a much heavier rate than “loaded biochar” products will allow. Keep the two separate and apply HUMICHAR every 4-6 weeks during the growing season.