Get Real Alliance

“Environmental care should be our way of life”
– David Munson Jr

Episode 4. The Wonders of Biochar

(Get Real intro with Music)

Munson Intro:

How might we humans, as a species, better work with Mother Nature,

instead of against her? We must learn how because rising CO₂ levels now

pose a real threat to our planet. And while scientists have used this data to

sound the alarm on our current climate crisis, the rapid depletion of the

Earth’s resources is perhaps even more daunting. Often overlooked and

undervalued, farmers are the nation's best offense to climate change, and

also those left most vulnerable. They too recognize these threats and are

sounding the alarm, because they know what's required to adequately

respond. One powerful solution that has emerged is biochar. Through the

power of pyrolysis we can transform various waste streams, which would

otherwise decay and oxidize back into the atmosphere, and turn it into

stable carbon instead. This process, in the right hands of farmers,

ranchers, and foresters could really reverse CO₂ levels in the air, enhance

carbon drawdown, improve soil health and increase farm wealth

simultaneously. This makes biochar a comprehensive nexus solution

toward environmental prosperity by converting biomass waste like dead

trees, debris, invasive species, and major agricultural waste into everyday

eco-friendly products. Right now our world desperately needs a win-win-win

solution so let's build that biochar fire and Get Real!



Did you know pre-Columbian tribes altered the carbon cycle by redesigning

their soils over 2,500 years ago, and it’s rewriting our history books today?

Yep, turns out there's a mystery to uncover in the Amazon and it starts with

something called terra preta. Recent studies revealed that using a

technique called slash and char Amazonians created a rich black earth to

remineralize their poor soils, but the baffling thing is the sheer size of it.


Terra Preta is at an average of 2 meters in depth, but it’s estimated by

some to cover an area that’s twice the size of Great Britain! Whaa??

But exactly how they made these soils is still unknown. However, we do

know it includes slash and charring biomass, pottery, human and

agricultural waste into a stable charcoal or biochar that could hold nutrients

for vibrant soil life. This ingenious technique transformed poor soil into

prime agricultural lands that could have supported a thriving civilization

perhaps numbering in the millions. And not only is terra preta still there, but

it’s reported to mysteriously regenerate itself at the rate of 1 centimeter per

year. So is one of man’s greatest wonders of the world really buried in the

Amazon Rainforest? I mean I do revere the great pyramid of Giza, but can

it grow the fruits of paradise? Now back to David!


Coach Munson’s Climate Breakdown:

Biochar is biomass that has gone through the process of pyrolysis,

meaning it has been burned at a low temperature in an oxygen-deficient

environment. By burning the volatile carbohydrates and evaporating the

water from plants, large amounts of pore space are created in the

remaining fibrous structural material. Biochar works like coal in reverse,

meaning nature mines the skies of CO2 by way of photosynthesis through

diverse plants, trees, even algae. We can then carbonize the waste of that

biomass to make useful eco-friendly carbon that’s stable for millennia.

Sounds too good to be true, but it’s for real. Biochar is a wondrous material

that goes beyond orchards, fields and forests into industrial products that

integrate with almost all sectors of life, from paper goods, to water and air

filters to art supplies, to carbon sequestering roads and buildings to fuel cell

batteries. Pyrolysis provides modern man with an ancient tool to lock

biomass into a longer, more stable and profitable carbon cycle. As a soil

supplement, biochar has no nutritional value by itself for plants, but when

primed or activated with nutrients through compost, manures, and fertilizers

that feed microbial life, biochar becomes an unsurpassed sponge of

nutrients of soil life and in turn plant life. Why? Earth's elements are very

attracted to magical carbon and like to bind to it, making them unlikely to


leach away. Biochar’s attractiveness and porous surface area also make it

an excellent filter to remove harmful chemicals from water. As such soils

integrated with biochar along creeks, rivers, or coastlines can soak up

excess nutrients leaching into waterways by filtering the water and

absorbing fertilizer runoff, which create toxic algae and oxygen deficient

waters. This is significant because biochar could help rescue the United

States dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that measured 3,275 square miles

in 2022-almost the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. This is

why we must scale billions of tons of biochar for every ecoregion to boost

soil health and prevent the loss of vital nutrients. Great green industries are

ready to be built by making biochar from various agricultural waste

streams, like almond and peanut hulls, corn, cotton and soy stalks and from

forest land-clearing and roadside weeds that can counterbalance our

carbon cycle on a landscape scale. Are you starting to see the big picture

here with biochar? It gives us a pivotal tool to close our waste loops and

turn the tide on climate change. This planetary potential is fantastic and

limited only by funding. Unfortunately, many farmers, who would love to

adopt biochar, are in a constant state of economic depression and unable

to make long-term improvements that require annual up-front cash, or

loans from banks. It’s ridiculous that most American farmers require outside

income to be able to maintain their own farm. An unfortunate result is the

average farm is a net carbon emitter. Sequestering carbon by pyrolyzing

waste streams to keep dead biomass from oxidizing back into the air is a

big and nuanced task, but it’s more than possible. Right now, biochar is

only used on a small scale and current methods of making it at scale are

expensive, requiring risk and investment. Societies can overcome these

hurdles through major public and private capital investments that could

fund large-scale projects, employing young climate responders and various

labor forces to regenerate the desolate regions of the western US,

transforming the vast tons of deadwood in national forests into biochar.

This national supply could be mixed with soils to regenerate the forest floor,

and transported to other areas for agriculture. Carbon sequestration from

biochar production can also secure new revenue streams that work better

with larger-sized farming operations and local co-ops. This retools modern

agriculture to be more economical, ecological, and supported, so that


people can really thrive in rural areas. So how might this biochar tool work

for us within a new farm model? The Get Real Alliance applauds current

climate smart commodity initiatives in America that could really invest in co-

ops and in centralized bio-refineries to utilize left-over crop residue. Cotton

and corn stalks, nut shells, deadwood from forests can be transported to a

local biorefinery near crop harvest collection points like grain elevators or

rail storage depots. Once that biomass is processed into biochar it can then

be distributed back to the farms (as a back-haul item) and into soils for

direct carbon sequestration. Did you know suppliers are selling these

verified carbon credits on the European markets today? Check out to learn more. Biochar allows farmers to close the loop for

agricultural waste, heals ecosystems and makes circular economies.

There’s exciting scientific research constantly emerging in this field and

great organizations like the International and US Biochar Initiative. Please

check out the Get Real links included below to guide you on this wondrous

X marks the spot material for a carbon friendly future. Now to share more

on this positive pathway for climate restoration is seasoned farmer, biochar

expert, manufacturer, supplier and cofounder of 42 Biochar- Mr. Steve

Gruhn. Steve thanks for joining Get Real again and sharing some insights

on the wonders of biochar.