Just One Thing: Green Your Plant Soil

Plant product, mixed with fertilizer, increases crop production, offsets carbon.

ByABC News via logo
August 18, 2010, 11:51 AM

Aug. 26, 2010— -- An ancient process used in the Amazon called pyrolysis is offering new hope in the fight against climate change, soil depletion, and even our addiction to oil.

Using pyrolysis an organization called re:char is using a soil amendment called biochar that not only improves production, but helps in the fight against carbon emissions.

Tim Callahan, vice president of international development at re:char, stopped by "Good Morning America" today to talk about biochar.

"Biochar can be mixed in with your fertilizer, and when you're planting to increase crop production up to 200 percent," Callahan said. "As an added bonus 2.2 lbs of biochar offsets the carbon produced from three hours of your washer/dryer, 8.5 hours of a room air conditioning unit, or over two days of watching television."

A new study featured in Nature found that biochar is the real deal, with the potential to sequester over a billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year, or 12 percent of the world's carbon emissions.

The process of pyrolysis actually creates three things: A fuel known as pyrolysis gas that powers the pyrolysis process, the biochar that helps your soil and a biofuel that Prof. Robert Brown of Iowa State University said can be refined to run an automobile engine for $2 to $3 per gallon.

Biochar itself is essentially highly-refined charcoal.

"What's great is you're essentially creating a carbon negative fuel," Brown said. "Charring half the crop waste from one square mile of farmland would lock away enough carbon to offset the emissions from 330 vehicles."

Brown has been testing biochar in his backyard in Iowa on a pepper plant and has seen the impressive results for himself.

"It's over 5 feet tall. I've never seen peppers grow like this," he said.