Integrated biochar solutions can achieve carbon-neutral staple crop production

Longlong Xia, Liang Cao, Yi Yang, Chaopu Ti, Yize Liu, Pete Smith, Kees-Jan Van Groenigen, Johannes Lehmann, Rattan Lal, Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, Ralf Kiese, Minghao Zhuang* (Corresponding Author), Xi Lu* (Corresponding Author), Xiaoyuan Yan* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Agricultural food production is a main driver of global greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions with unclear pathways towards carbon neutrality. Here, through a
comprehensive life-cycle assessment using data from China, we show that an integrated biomass pyrolysis and electricity generation system coupled with commonly applied methane and nitrogen mitigation measures can help reduce staple crops' life-cycle GHG emissions from the current 666.5 to -37.9 Tg CO2-eq yr−1 50 . Emission reductions would be achieved primarily through carbon sequestration from biochar application to the soil, and fossil fuels displacement by bio-energy produced from pyrolysis. We estimate that this integrated system can increase crop yield by 8.3%, decrease reactive nitrogen losses by 25.5%, lower air pollutant emissions by 125–2483 Gg yr−1 54 , and enhance net environmental and economic benefits by 36.2%. These results indicate that integrated biochar solutions could contribute to China's 2060 carbon neutrality objective while enhancing food security and environmental sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-246
Number of pages11
JournalNature Food
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

This work was financially supported by the Helmholtz-OCPC (Office of China Postdoc Council) Postdoc Program and Humboldt Postdoctoral Reserch Fellowship, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grants 42061124001, 72174197,552 72025401, 71974108, 71690244 and 41961124004), and the Tsinghua University Inditex Sustainable Development Fund. We would like to thank Prof. Yongcun Zhao for providing the SOC data. We are grateful to the senior editor Dr. Juliana Gil and three reviewers for their constructive and insightful comments, which greatly improved the manuscript.

Data Availability Statement

The meta-analysis dataset generated during this study is available in Supplementary Data 1. The source data underlying Figs. 1–5 are available in the online version.


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