Can Charcoal Save The Planet?

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Terra preta means “black earth”. More importantly, if less literally, it means fertile soil—created 1000s of years ago out of nutrient-starved rainforest dirt by the strange alchemy of charcoal.

No one knows exactly how Amazonian natives made terra preta, but that isn’t stopping modern agriculture scientists from attempting to recreate, and build on, the successes of this ancient farming technique. Using biochar—charcoal created in an oxygen-free environment—they’re hoping to improve soil quality and sequester carbon. But first, they have to deal with that pesky little thing called evidence…

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