Re-use of sugarcane residue as a novel biochar fertiliser - Increased phosphorus use efficiency and plant yield

Bernardo M.M.N. Borges*, Mathias Strauss, Priscila A. Camelo, Saran P. Sohi, Henrique C.J. Franco

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the advent of mechanized sugarcane harvesting in Brazil around 70 Mt of straw each year is left on the field, and ∼70% of its carbon (C) is decomposed and returned to the atmosphere on the same timeframe. The adoption of a stabilised C product such as biochar as a vehicle for nutrient delivery might address two ends of a problem: to increase nutrient use efficiency by plants while creating a viable and efficient strategy to increase stable C in soil. This study proposed a production route for a biochar fertiliser (BF) from sugarcane straw biochar (SSB), by activation of SSB with KOH and subsequent neutralisation with H3PO4. The phosphorus (P) content of BF (8.6% P) was superior to SSB. It was also noticed that structure of SSB matrix was altered, creating increased sorption capacity, with the fertiliser bound to the biochar rather than physically mixed. The BF was tested in a controlled condition experiment with sugarcane for 120 days using three low P soils with different clay contents (147, 326 and 528 g kg−1). BF led to higher biomass yield (15%) and P use efficiency (PUE) (∼10%) compared to standard P source (triple superphosphate – TSP) in the most clayey soil. The adoption of a fertiliser based on a nutrient enriched biochar can increase the effectiveness of crop production. Enhanced delivery of crop nutrients increases the attractiveness of increased soil C.

Original languageEnglish
Article number121406
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date2 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2020


  • Biochar
  • Pyrolysis
  • Residue
  • Sugarcane straw
  • Use efficiency


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