Biochar FAQ

Biochar General

What is biochar?

Biochar is a special kind of eco-friendly charcoal that you add to soil to improve its function.

How is biochar made?

Biochar is made by burning wood and other organic biomass (natural plant and tree waste) in a kiln at low temperatures in a low oxygen environment, in a process called ‘pyrolysis’.

How is biochar different from the standard kind of charcoal that you put on your barbecue?

Although they are made in similar ways, biochar is designed to be biologically active. Due to its processing techniques, lots of nooks and crannies are created in its surface – making it much more porous and absorbent than common charcoal. The beneficial fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms that are essential to healthy and fertile soil flourish in these tiny spaces. Barbecue charcoal, on the other hand, has been made purely to burn. Adding it to your soil will not produce the same nourishing results.

Moreover, biochar is made from sustainable plant biomass. Over 90% of the charcoal sold in the UK is imported – and is the result of environmentally damaging deforestation in the tropics.

What does biochar do for soil?

There are numerous benefits arising from adding biochar to your soil. It can boost the fertility of your soil – and, as a result, plant health and crop yields.  It does this by improving the nutritional content and fertility of the soil by creating the perfect environment for mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria to flourish. These do wonders for plant health. Through its roots, they feed the plant nutrients and protect it from disease.

Biochar also manages, seemingly paradoxically, to improve soil’s water holding capacity, at the same time as helping with drainage. It can do this because it’s so porous. It can soak up lots of water and hold onto it. This means your plants need less watering – and the beneficial fungi and bacteria in your soil won’t die off during a dry spell.

Why is it good for the environment?

Biochar can assist with two of the greatest environment problems we face.

First of all, it offers one way to help combat the widespread problem of soil degradation. The United Nations has pronounced a third of Earth’s soils ‘severely degraded’ – as a result of intensive farming, industrial fertilizers, pesticides and pollution. Biochar can restore degraded soils, by helping beneficial fungi, bacteria and microorganisms to flourish. It also offers a significant tool in the fight against soil acidification – a key factor in soil degradation – by maintaining soil’s natural pH levels.

Secondly, biochar can contribute to the issue of runaway carbon emissions, which drive global warming. It captures carbon (CO2) and fixes it in the soil.

What is the scientific proof that it works?

James Lovelock, the visionary scientist behind the Gaia Hypothesis, has advocated putting biochar into the soil as one way of cutting carbon levels and mitigating climate change. Chris Goodall, author of Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, also recommends biochar as one means to carbon level reduction.

Academic interest in biochar is at an all-time high. Research is ongoing, however, the results to date are highly promising. In the UK numerous universities are involved. Edinburgh University hosts the UK’s Biochar Research Centre. Professor Peter Smith of The University of Aberdeen, and also Director of Scotland’s Climate Change Centre of Expertise, has written a paper advocating biochar as part of the solution to runaway carbon emissions. Research into biochar is also being undertaken at Coventry University, Reading University and the University of Newcastle. Professor James Fairhead of the University of Sussex has conducted research into rural African farmers using biochar to make their agricultural practice more sustainable.

How long does it stay in the soil?

Ancient Amazonian peoples used biochar to create highly nutrient-rich ‘super soils’, called ‘Terra Preta’, to solve the problem of poor tropical soil fertility. Modern scientists have dated these soils back at least two thousand years – suggesting that biochar is stable and long-lasting.

Earth Elixirs

What are Earth Elixirs?

Earth Elixirs is a unique range of biochar soil amendments. They are hand-crafted on a pristine, biodynamic Sussex woodland – with biochar made from the natural wood waste created by eco-friendly forest management. They also contain a secret blend of biodynamic compost improvers.

Who makes Earth Elixirs?

Earth Elixirs range is 100% made by Sacred Earth, a community-owned, not-for-profit land project – which aims to reconnect people with nature and, thereby, with each other. The project is located on a 40-acre biodynamic woodland in the East Sussex countryside. All the biomass used to make the biochar in Earth Elixirs products is natural waste created by eco-friendly, regenerative forest management practices, such as pollarding and coppicing – basically pruning trees to encourage re-growth.

Who can use Earth Elixirs products?

Anyone with soil! They can be used in house pot plants, tiny urban yards, suburban gardens, country estates, professional growers’ greenhouses, orchards and farms.

For those interested in bulk trade enquiries, please contact

Why is Sacred Earth’s product range different from other biochar products on the market?

There are three main ways in which it’s different:

Provenance: You know exactly where all of the Earth Elixirs range’s ‘ingredients’ come from – Sacred Earth’s beautifully tended Sussex woodland. Large-scale biochar producers must source the plant, tree and organic waste needed to make it from other companies, farms and organisations, sometimes even outside the UK.

Environmentally regenerative: The Earth Elixirs range goes one step beyond being just sustainable. It is environmentally regenerative. The biomass used to make it is the result of tree management practices, like pollarding and coppicing, which actually encourage regrowth. Plus our Sussex woodland is not just organic, but biodynamic. This means not only do we not use any chemicals or pesticides on our land, but we actively encourage biodiversity to flourish at every level – from the microorganisms in the soil right up to the buzzards and ravens swooping above our treetops.

Secret recipe: Our products all contain a unique ‘elixir’, a potent recipe of all-natural biodynamic compost preparations, comfrey tea, worm casts and seaweed – designed to boost your soil even more.

What does the range consist of?

The Earth Elixirs range consists of four products:

  1. Bio-Char Compost Accelerator & Soil Conditioner (£11.99 per 5kg bag, available all year-round)
  2. Bio-Char Seed Compost Activator (£7.99 per 1kg tube, available February to August)
  3. Tree Support Compost (£9.99 per 3kg tub, available September to March)
  4. Barbeque charcoal (£4.99 per 3kg bag, available May to September)

How do I use the Earth Elixirs Biochar Compost Accelerator and Soil Conditioner?

Put it directly onto your soil by digging it into existing flower or plant beds. Alternatively, it can be added to your compost to enrich it.

How do I use the Earth Elixirs Biochar Seed Compost Activator?

Soak thoroughly with water and allow seven days to inoculate. Mix with existing seed compost – using approximately one part activator to five parts compost.Place into seed pots or rows and sow directly.

How do I use the Activated Biochar Tree Support Compost?

Place this compost beneath new trees you are planting – or around base of existing trees. Cover with mulch and water thoroughly.

Why is the Earth Elixirs barbecue charcoal different from other charcoal?

Most of the standard charcoal available in the UK is made from vulnerable tropical forests in Africa, South America and South East Asia. As a result, many people unwittingly burn the rainforests when having a barbecue.

Sacred Earth’s barbecue charcoal is made from the natural waste created by our environmentally regenerative management of our pristine Sussex woodland. We make it with the wood offcuts resulting from the age-old pruning techniques of pollarding and coppicing – which actively encourage new tree growth.