Biochar application to low fertility soils: A review of current status, and future prospects

Ali El-Naggar, Sang Soo Lee, Jörg Rinklebe, Muhammad Farooq, Hocheol Song, Ajit K. Sarmah, Andrew R. Zimmerman, Mahtab Ahmad, Sabry M. Shaheen, Yong Sik Ok*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

615 Citations (Scopus)


Rapid industrial development and human activities have caused a degradation of soil quality and fertility. There is increasing interest in rehabilitating low fertility soils to improve crop yield and sustainability. Biochar, a carbonaceous material intentionally produced from biomass, is widely used as an amendment to improve soil fertility by retaining nutrients and, potentially, enhancing nutrient bioavailability. But, biochar is not a simple carbon material with uniform properties, so appropriate biochar selection must consider soil type and target crop. In this respect, many recent studies have evaluated several modification methods to maximize the effectiveness of biochar such as optimizing the pyrolysis process, mixing with other soil amendments, composting with other additives, activating by physicochemical processes, and coating with other organic materials. However, the economic feasibility of biochar application cannot be neglected. Strategies for reducing biochar losses and its application costs, and increasing its use efficiency need to be developed. This review synthesized current understanding and introduces holistic and practical approaches for biochar application to low fertility soils, with consideration of economic aspects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)536-554
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Black carbon
  • Co-composted biochar
  • Composite material
  • Designer biochar
  • Engineered biochar
  • Soil fertility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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