Bamboo Biochar for Regenerative Agroforestry

What is Biochar?
Biochar is a type of charcoal made by a process called pyrolysis. Organic materials such as wood, agricultural waste, and even municipal sludge are heated within a limited oxygen environment. This converts the material into a stable carbon-rich form of charcoal with applications in agriculture, manufacturing, and environmental remediation. Currently, GIGA researchers are focused on the benefits of biochar as a carbon-rich soil amendment.
Converting agricultural waste and woody biomass into biochar is an extremely simple and effective method of fixing atmospheric carbon. Good quality biochar can contain up to 90% carbon. It is also interesting to note that 1 kg of solid carbon is equivalent to 3.6 kg of CO2, which can be effectively removed from the atmosphere and fixed.
Biochar has a wide range of environmental benefits, including remediation of marginal and drought-affected landscapes, as well as being a viable commercial foundation for GIGA’s green community development programs. When combined with depleted soils, biochar enhances its water-holding potential and facilitates gas exchange by increasing the soil’s porosity and its general fertility dynamics. The extensive surface area of biochar affectively absorb micronutrients to reduces leaching, providing an ideal niche for beneficial microbes to thrive. These microbes interact symbiotic with the soil and plant roots, to modulate the delivery of water and nutrients for healthy growth. The beneficial effects of biochar amendments are evident in the increased layers of soil humus and root development. Biochar also establishes conditions in soil for cationic exchange, similar to a giant carbon battery, negatively charging the soils and mobilizing nutrient particles, which are then attracted to the positively charged root zone also known as the rhizosphere.
It is possible to sequester large amounts of carbon in soils using biochar-based organic fertilizers. This, in turn, improves marginal soils’ capacity to absorb rainwater and retain the moisture essential for microbial life, as they breaks down organic matter and facilitate the releases of nutrients back into the soil. Amidst growing concerns that our modern synthetic fertilizer-based agricultural systems will be unable to provide us with long-term food security, compounded by rising global temperatures and evermore erratic weather patterns, biochar-based agroforestry is proving to be an effective ecological tool in climate-proofing our landscapes. This is accomplished by generating more plant coverage to shade soils, effectively reducing surface evaporation, increasing soil fertility and agroforest coverage, in preparedness for future climate impacts to our conventional agriculture.
Although carbon does occur naturally in soil, humans have been producing biochar to amended poor soils for thousands of years, with evidence of carbonized materials found in soils of the Amazon Basin, known as Terra Preta, these soils have significant microbial activity and generate deep layers of rich black soil. The ancient Amazonians used biochar as a soil amendment to improve the soil humus content with substantial increases in their crop yields.

Why bamboo?
Bamboo biomass is the optimal source of biochar because it grows faster than any other woody plant. At the same time, when bamboo matrices are carbonized, their unique cellular structures provide an immense surface area. Biochar’s carbon content is a direct result of a plant’s metabolic rate, namely photosynthesis, the process through which plants absorb sunlight, ingest CO2, and release oxygen. With an unsurpassed growth rate, bamboo yields more biomass, produces more oxygen, and captures more atmospheric carbon per hectare than any other terrestrial species. So, if removing carbon from our air and fixing it in our soils is the goal, the collaboration between bamboo agroforestry and biochar soil amendment is hard to match.

About the author: Greenie Influencer Green Island Growth Association

GIGA’s program themes

• Biodiversity and sustainability through forest farming

• Non-timber forest harvest, value chains, investments and product marketing.

• Forest governance, gender equality, social justice and community well-being

• Climate change mitigation, green energy and low-carbon development

• Carbon sequestration for moisturiser retention, and soil health

Innovations

• Transformative Community Forest Partnership Platforms

• Community Forest Farming for Landscape Regeneration

• Non-timber Forest harvest, sustainable processing and new forest friendly product development

Topics

Explore our programs from agroforestry to climate change mitigation, food security and nutrition, gender equality, soil health, aquaforestry and blue carbon.

Agro-ecology

Inspired by the forest ecosystems, agro-ecology combines local knowledge and scientific research, focused on the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment. To build resilient livelihoods and restore forest landscapes, by addressing key knowledge and implementation gaps, to support forest farming communities through their transition to sustainability.
GIGA applies CIFOR-ICRAF’s agro-ecology research and systems, working closely with forest farmers to develop locally relevant models, to help growers and forest collectors keep pace with the global demand for produce without degrading the natural resources they need to grow it.

Ensuring soil health through carbon sequestration is a key agro-ecological principle. Our work focuses on managing soils to protect their microbial communities so they can provide the essential ecosystem services of storage, regulation and delivering water and nutrients to plants.

Agroforesty

More than simply ‘agriculture with trees’, agroforesty is an agro-ecological approach that involves farmers, livestock, trees and forests at multiple scales – including trees on farms, farming in forests and at forest margins and tree-crop production. Leveraging the ability of trees to store carbon, draw water and nutrients from soil, shelter biodiversity, build soil organic matter.

Since the term agroforestry was coined in the late 1970s to describe the work of World Agroforestry (ICRAF), the concept has evolved greatly.

GIGA’s employs these systems to address the complex interaction between people and ecology as a synergistic approach to sustainability.

Aquaforestry

Aquaforestry is where selected flood tolerate trees and shrubs are planted to line water bodies, and multipurpose plantations, this unique method of reforestation makes use of the riperian belts, saline effected and unproductive tidal flood zones including degraded mangroves areas.

Aquaforestry is utilised as an ideal ecologically-based land use option, for dynamic wetlands rehabilitation, by sustainably Integrating community aquaculture and woodlots into blue carbon programs.

Bioenergy

Green Energy from plants with oil-producing seeds, agro waste or other organic materials, that can be converted to biomass energy, with the potential to produce clean energy, secure rural livelihoods and restore degraded lands, so helping Indonesians achieve both climate targets and sustainability goals.

Bioenergy can also motivate the economic incentive for private sector and community groups to undertake landscape restoration efforts.

We carefully manage our projects at the landscape level, to avoid displacing food crops or promote land-clearing.

GIGA and CIFOR-ICRAF are working towards better biofuels includes woodfuel such as charcoal and biomass production, as well as using bioenergy species to restore degraded landscapes (including peatlands), and introducing short-rotation bioenergy crops, such as fast growing nipa palm, native bamboo and sorghum species, amongst hedgerows of permanent forest reserves and productive agroforestry zones, providing viable livelihood options during the transition from coal to greener alternatives, while reduce air pollution and increasing public health.

We see bioenergy as part of a comprehensive approach that considers energy poverty, health life, climate change, along with communities food and nutritional security, through this multifunctional closed loop forest production systems.

We are also Implementing social and gender-equal off take value chains, from production, distribution through to consumption.

Climate change mitigation

GIGA is working at the coalface of low-carbon development to support Indonesia's ambition to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Global warming is already leading to more and more destructive weather events and changes in rainfall patterns that make planning for agriculture, forestry and natural resource management a serious challenge.

CIFOR-ICRAF advocate mitigating climate change by increasing forest coverage, GIGA’s grass roots work in Indonesian, is helping to reduce emissions from deforestation and land degradation.

By implementing equitable climate change measures of agroforestry, bioenergy, wetland aquaforestry and blue carbon programs, we aim to build self-sustaining forest communities while reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Forests and trees are an important safety net for communities: many forest products are more resilient to climate variability and extremes than monoculture crops, while mangroves help reduce the risks from cyclones and sea-level rise.

Forest coverage reduce local temperatures, erosion, modulate water flow and provides continuous yields during times of scarcity.

Our approach to climate change adaptation focuses on CIFOR-ICRAF's agro-ecological, nature-based solutions, of improved forest landscape resilience for community green development potential.

We are also researching ways to promote win-win outcomes for climate-smart agriculture and forest farming to strengthen both food production and forest ecosystems in the face of climate change, through techniques like biochar mulching and intercropping jungle gardens.

By implementing erosion control, rain harvesting, water table management and climate-smart agriculture, we aim to increase communities resilience to climate impacts, by increasing local forest food security and livelihoods, while reducing the overall carbon footprint.

Forest and landscape regeneration

GIGA is providing the tools, training and systems forest farmers need to help regenerate their forests and thrive.

Restoring degraded landscapes and depleted soils helps mitigate climate change, supports sustainable livelihoods and maintain biodiversity, as soil fertility is essential to supporting food production.

GIGA is working on the ground to assist the Indonesian government meet restoration target commitments to the Rio Conventions and the Bonn Challenge1, of nearly 16million hectares of degraded land.

Forest farming & nutrition

Feeding Indonesians growing population – without degrading more forests will take a paradigm shift in the way food is grown.
Whether food come from farms, forests, estuaries or the markets, communities need to implement more dependable and nutritious sources. Yet current food systems are threatened by unsustainable chemical based agricultural and aquaculture practices that degrade ecosystems, causing climate change and loss of biodiversity.

Diet transitions towards ultra-processed and fast foods are contributing to a dramatic rise in health issues. In some areas, shifting patterns of land use and agricultural production systems are changing local diets, sometimes leading to an increased risk of malnutrition, not for lack of quantity but from it's diminishing quality, as much food now grown lacks essential nutrients.

To help transform food systems, GIGA is committed to CIFOR-ICRAF broad agroecological approaches, including farmer-led strategies to increase forest coverage and diversity across estuarine and agricultural landscapes.

By providing evidence on how forests trees contribute to people’s diets, in an effort to influence national policies to include forests as an integral part of national food security system.

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