The importance of biochar quality and pyrolysis yield for soil carbon sequestration in practice

Leonor Rodrigues, Alice Budai, Lars Elsgaard, Brieuc Hardy, Sonja G. Keel, Claudio Mondini, César Plaza, Jens Leifeld*

*Corresponding author af dette arbejde

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskrift/Konferencebidrag i tidsskrift /Bidrag til avisTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Biochar is a carbon (C)-rich material produced from biomass by anoxic or oxygen-limited thermal treatment known as pyrolysis. Despite substantial gaseous losses of C during pyrolysis, incorporating biochar in soil has been suggested as an effective long-term option to sequester CO2 for climate change mitigation, due to the intrinsic stability of biochar C. However, no universally applicable approach that combines biochar quality and pyrolysis yield into an overall metric of C sequestration efficiency has been suggested yet. To ensure safe environmental use of biochar in agricultural soils, the International Biochar Initiative and the European Biochar Certificate have developed guidelines on biochar quality. In both guidelines, the hydrogen-to-organic C (H/Corg) ratio is an important quality criterion widely used as a proxy of biochar stability, which has been recognized also in the new EU regulation 2021/2088. Here, we evaluate the biochar C sequestration efficiency from published data that comply with the biochar quality criteria in the above guidelines, which may regulate future large-scale field application in practice. The sequestration efficiency is calculated from the fraction of biochar C remaining in soil after 100 years (Fperm) and the C-yield of various feedstocks pyrolyzed at different temperatures. Both parameters are expressed as a function of H/Corg. Combining these two metrics is relevant for assessing the mitigation potential of the biochar economy. We find that the C sequestration efficiency for stable biochar is in the range of 25%–50% of feedstock C. It depends on the type of feedstock and is in general a non-linear function of H/Corg. We suggest that for plant-based feedstock, biochar production that achieves H/Corg of 0.38–0.44, corresponding to pyrolysis temperatures of 500–550°C, is the most efficient in terms of soil carbon sequestration. Such biochars reveal an average sequestration efficiency of 41.4% (±4.5%) over 100 years.

TidsskriftEuropean Journal of Soil Science
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - jul. 2023


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