Though I spend a lot of time thinking about how biochar interacts with soils, I was thrilled to read this awesome publication about how biochar increase the efficiency in which cows turn food into mass.
The science is young on this front, but the results that have been reported are extremely encouraging and pose huge implications! One study by Leng et. al at Souphanouvong University found that by feeding cattle a diet with 0.6% biochar, the cows grew 25% bigger on the same amount of food—that’s a huge difference! In the stomachs of cows reside trillions of bacteria that assist in digestion (that’s why they can eat grass and we can’t… er, we shouldn’t) yet at the same time, they produce methane too, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. When this research group looked at how these bacteria in the cow’s stomach responded to biochar, they found that its massive surface area and many pores were such a good place for them to set up shop, they could work more efficiently and thereby produced less net methane. You wouldn’t think it, but cows are the number one global producer of methane. These biochar-fed cows produced an astounding 29% less methane.
So let’s take a step back for a moment and think about how this aligns with our sustainability paradigm: We feed a cow grass with 0.6% biochar by weight; the cow turns that food into more meat than it would have without biochar; the cow produces less greenhouse gas; as the cow produces its waste, the biochar that was originally in its stomach is now in its waste, holding the nutrients in place that can then be used as a sustainable long-term soil amendment.
The more I dig, the more amazing things I find about what biochar can do. In the words of Jeff Wallin, “You use it for one reason, but you end up with many benefits.”
Be cool to the planet!