Smouldering sugar cane in Kenya

The soil enhancer biochar fights climate change and improves crop yield—but to get the most benefit, researchers and the development community need to take environmental and social circumstances into account.  

Biochar Benefits

May 8, 2014

Smouldering sugar cane in Kenya

The soil enhancer biochar fights climate change and improves crop yield—but to get the most benefit, researchers and the development community need to take environmental and social circumstances into account. Faculty Fellow Johannes Lehmann (CSS) and his coauthors give some practical advice about how to get the best results from biochar in Nature Geoscience’s lead cover story this month.

The piece suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach will not produce the dramatic soil, environment, and climate benefits seen in the lab and carefully controlled field studies. Instead, tailor-made biochar systems stand the best chance of success. Lehmann and his colleagues conclude:

What has become clear is that the environmental benefits can only be achieved in systems where organic waste management, the production of biofuels, and the agronomic use of the biochar product are considered simultaneously. Biochar systems are likely to be successful in places where soils would benefit from biochar additions to improve water and nutrient retention, where organic wastes are easily accessible (and not diverted to other forms of waste utilization), and where economic conditions are favorable.

Read more in Nature Geoscience.