At The Community Farm we are always looking for ways to improve our growing system and help the environment. So when we were offered the chance to try a new compost which contained GroChar we jumped at the chance. GroChar is, essentially, biochar (charcoal) with a few nutrients and mycorrhizae added. It is inert but has a high water holding capacity which means less watering and, hopefully, better use of nutrients. When added to soil it offers a way of sequestering carbon which helps reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. Carbon Gold - the company that makes the product, is running a range of trials with growers in the UK as there is little evidence of how biochar affects soils in this country.
The trials were very interesting and the compost performed well. After losing some plants to start with from over watering (we were used to a compost that dried out more quickly) we readjusted our watering regime and found that seeds generally germinated a day earlier when biochar was present. Our trials did not look at any longer term benefits to health or yield but on the basis of our experience last year we are now using the compost for around half of our propagation and will try and measure some of the plants once planted out. We are also doing a couple of trials adding the GroChar to the soil once planted to see if this has a positive effect.