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Where we are…..

THE GOOD NEWS IS farmers markets are burgeoning, local food is readily available through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and there is an upsurge of urban agriculture projects. Foodland Ontario produce is prominently showcased at our neighbourhood grocers.

The bad news is climate change is real. No longer being denied, governments grapple with measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) while we are well into the era of peak oil where consumption demands outweigh production.

Our soil will be A source of our recovery

The connection between our food and our soil is evident, but we are now making a connection between our soil and climate change. Biochar, a soil improvement product which has the ability to capture carbon and sequester it in the earth for over 1000 years would be a useful tool in our fight to mitigate climate change. A Cornell University study has estimated that 12% of current annual anthrogogenic GHGE could be reduced through the sustainable production and use of biochar: http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2010/08/biochar-could-mitigate-climate-change-study-shows


Biochar is produced when biomass is heated in the near absence of oxygen (pyrolysis). The process is considered carbon neutral and when incorporated in soil is considered carbon negative. Used worldwide, it also suppresses methane derived from livestock and nitrous oxide derived from livestock and petro-chemical fertilizers, thus mitigating agricultural GHGE.

Other biochar attributes include the power to:

- Enhance soil biology - up to 40% increase in mycorrhizal fungi

- Increase soil organic matter

- Improve water retention capacity of soils - up to 30%

- Improve nutrient retention in soils - up to 50% increase in cation exchange capacity

- Remediate soils: agricultural, pastures, quarries, landfills, urban trees, green roofs, soil production, urban property management.


2016 was a brutal summer of heat and drought and our urban trees have suffered because of this. However, the trees in our study areas that have been treated with biochar continue to show better soil dynamics, greater moisture retention and healthier general appearance, as the photos above show of a tree treated with biochar (left) and not treated (right).


During YREA's continuing research of biochar, we discovered that a large part of the biochar produced in Europe is used in farming to improve the health of livestock and poultry. Biochar can suppress intestinal pathogens, deactivating toxins already in digestive systems when used in feed formulas of cattle, poultry and other farm animals.

Biochar's highly adsorbent quality, when added to litter, locks in moisture and nitrogen compounds, markedly reducing odours and emissions of ammonia as well as footpad diseases.

YREA is particularly interested in further study and development of this use of biochar for  the improvement of animal health and welfare and the reduction of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE). What a valuable tool for farmers seeking to implement sustainable practices!

YREA plans to subsequently establish a non-profit biochar production venture, making biochar locally available.