Research and Application of Biochar in North America

Wei Zheng, Nancy Holm, Kurt A. Spokas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Biochar production and its application in soils have been proposed as a good strategy for carbon sequestration, providing simultaneous benefits for improving soil quality and increasing agronomic productivity. In this chapter, we summarize historical and current research and application of biochar in North America, focusing on three important aspects of biochar as (i) a soil amendment, (ii) a carbon sequestration agent, and (iii) a high-value carbon material. The effect of biochar as a soil amendment on agronomic yields was comprehensively evaluated. Application of biochar to fertile soil was examined for potential synergistic agronomic effects when coapplied with nutrient fertilizers. The potential of biochar as a carbon sequestration strategy was assessed in North America by theoretically analyzing the available and unused biomass that could be used to produce biochar for carbon storage. It indicates that Canada and the United States have sufficient biomass to produce biochar and thereby offset their annual CO2 emissions from human activity to some degree. Increasing carbon retention during biochar production and improving its stability may aid adoption of biochar as a carbon sequestration agent. In addition to directly sequestering carbon, biochar as a soil amendment has potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from soils. Additionally, biochar can be used as a sorbent to remove contaminants or serve as a precursor of other high-value carbon materials. To increase the potential of widespread adoption of biochar, its potential risks and barriers are further addressed and analyzed, and thereby possible solutions and future application in North America are proposed.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAgricultural and Environmental Applications of Biochar: Advances and Barriers
EditorsM. Guo, G. He, S. M. Uchimiya
StatePublished - 2016


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