Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Florence, South Carolina » Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #337394

Research Project: Improvement of Soil Management Practices and Manure Treatment/Handling Systems of the Southern Coastal Plain

Location: Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research

Title: Biochar research activities and their relation to development and environmental quality: A meta-analysis

Author
item Mehmood, Khalid
item Chavez Garcia, Elizabeth
item Schirrmann, Michael
item Ladd, Brenton
item Kammann, Claudia
item Wrage-monnig, Nicole
item Siebe, Christina
item Estavillo, Jose
item Fuertes-mendizabal, Teresa
item Cayuela, Mariluz
item Sigua, Gilbert
item Spokas, Kurt
item Cowie, Annette
item Novak, Jeffrey - Jeff
item Ippolito, James
item Borchard, Nils

Submitted to: Agronomy for Sustainable Development
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/16/2017
Publication Date: 6/7/2017
Citation: Mehmood, K., Chavez Garcia, E., Schirrmann, M., Ladd, B., Kammann, C., Wrage-Monnig, N., Siebe, C., Estavillo, J.M., Fuertes-Mendizabal, T., Cayuela, M., Sigua, G.C., Spokas, K.A., Cowie, A.L., Novak, J.M., Ippolito, J.A., Borchard, N. 2017. Biochar research activities and their relation to development and environmental quality: A meta-analysis. Agronomy for Sustainable Development. doi:10.1007/s13593-017-0430-1.

Interpretive Summary: The lack of biochar research in less-developed countries may result in overlooking innovations that could enhance biochar efficacy. Developing agricultural technologies to double food supply by 2030 and simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be challenging. Biochar applied as a soil amendment could contribute to achieving these goals, but further research is required to ensure their optimal use. Information on current funding levels for biochar research by individual countries or states is sparse in the literature. We suggest the need for cooperation (e.g. interdisciplinary research, knowledge transfer) and investments (e.g. research, infrastructure) in countries that are interested in conducting biochar research as a tool to improve crop productivity. Previous research has shown that biochar applied to weathered soils improves soil physicochemical. Consequently, biochar may improve crop yields on nutrient-deprived soils insuring that crop production can be increased. This systematic metadata analyses revealed that global biochar research published between 2010 and 2014 was driven by the countries’ human development and environmental quality. Biochar research in less developed countries generally assessed biochar production technologies and biochars’ impact on chemical soil properties and plant productivity. China dominated biochar research activities with a heavy focus on biochar production technologies and on use of biochar as sorbent for organic and inorganic compounds. Less developed tropical countries in which agricultural productivity is limited due to large areas of unfertile weathered soils could benefit from biochar research in highly developed countries. However, this will require that biochar research is intensified by i) enhancing knowledge transfer and capacity building, ii) increasing research investments and technical cooperation, and iii) encouraging synergies across scientific disciplines to improve understanding of the complex interactions between biochar, soil and plants. We conclude that by creating regional and worldwide scientific exchange networks, that this will guide the development of integrated soil management strategies into a coherent global policy platform for increases in global crop productivity.

Technical Abstract: Developing agricultural technologies to double food supply by 2030 and at the same time reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases from agriculture will be challenging, but an imperative issue for the 21st century. The production and application of biochar could contribute to achieving these goals, but further research is required to ensure optimal use. Many investigations have shown that the application of biochar to infertile tropical soils improves soil functions such as water and nutrient holding capacity. Consequently, biochar may improve crop yields on highly weathered soils typical of humid tropical zones where low agricultural productivity needs to be raised to ease human hunger and poverty. This systematic review revealed that global biochar research published between 2010 and 2014 was driven by the countries’ human development and environmental quality. Biochar research in less developed countries generally assessed biochar production technologies and biochars’ impact on chemical soil properties and plant productivity. Among the less developed countries China dominated biochar research activities with a heavy focus on biochar production technologies and on use of biochar as sorbent for organic and inorganic compounds. Beside this, the majority of biochar research was done in highly developed countries addressing a higher diversity of questions. Less developed tropical countries in which agricultural productivity is limited due to large areas of unfertile weathered soils could benefit substantially from the biochar research being done in the highly developed countries. However, this will require that biochar research is intensified by i) enhancing knowledge transfer and capacity building, ii) increasing research investments and technical cooperation, and iii) encouraging synergies across scientific disciplines to improve understanding of the complex interactions between biochar, soil and plants.