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Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1131;

Impact of Biochar Formulation on the Release of Particulate Matter and on Short-Term Agronomic Performance

Institute of Biometeorology, National Research Council (IBIMET-CNR), Via Caproni 8, 50145 Firenze, Italy
IMéRA, Institut de Recherches Avancées, Université Aix-Marseille, 2, Place Le Verrier, 13004 Marseille, France
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 8 May 2017 / Revised: 21 June 2017 / Accepted: 23 June 2017 / Published: 28 June 2017
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When applied in agriculture, the solid carbonaceous residue of anoxic thermochemical conversion of biomass (biochar) has variable effects on soil, crop yields, and climate mitigation. Biochar can be added to soil as powder or as pellets. While powdered forms have demonstrated effects on crop yields, they may release coarse and fine particulate that can be transported into the atmosphere during production, packaging, storage, transport, and distribution. Biochar weathering and wind erosion may also cause the release of particles. Particulate matter (PM) released from biochar may have negative effects on human health and increase the atmospheric burden of shortwave absorbing black carbon aerosols with non-negligible effects on atmospheric radiative forcing. Pelletizing feedstock before the thermochemical conversion and moistening of biochar are expected to reduce the emission of PM in the processing and post-processing phases while also increasing the mean residence time of Carbon in soils. The impact of biochar formulation (pellet and non-pellet) on the release of coarse and fine particulate in wet and dry conditions was assessed in a laboratory experiment. In parallel, the effects of pellet and non-pellet formulations on growth and yield of processing tomato plants were tested in a pot experiment. Results show that pelletization and moistening substantially reduce the amount of fine particles released and are therefore practices that should be adopted to maximize the mitigation potential of biochar. A reduction of tomato yield was observed in pellet treatment, suggesting that the higher interface area of powdered biochar may boost productivity in the short term. This work points to the existence of a tradeoff between the short-term maximization of agronomic benefits and the minimization of harmful effects due to particulate release. View Full-Text
Keywords: biochar formulation; pelletization; yield effect; particulate matter; processing tomato biochar formulation; pelletization; yield effect; particulate matter; processing tomato

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Maienza, A.; Genesio, L.; Acciai, M.; Miglietta, F.; Pusceddu, E.; Vaccari, F.P. Impact of Biochar Formulation on the Release of Particulate Matter and on Short-Term Agronomic Performance. Sustainability 2017, 9, 1131.

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