25 February 2009
Scientists Search for Carbon Solutions in Amazonia's 'Black Earth'
Imagine if in a poverty-stricken sector of the equatorial band, littered with acidic soils barely fit for farming, there were jet-black patches of dirt, seeded with charcoal and so fertile that they could be planted continuously for over 40 years without applying fertilizer.
Then imagine that those patches were so loaded with carbon that they had six to seven times the amount of carbon per pound of the surrounding soils, that Western scientists could partially replicate the process through which the black earth was made, and that by burying carbon in earth they could augment soil fertility and, perhaps, leach carbon out of the atmosphere and reverse global warming.
Perhaps the jig is already up—too much detail. What we’re talking about is terra preta, or more colloquially, biochar, the Amazonian miracle soil.