Biochars are products that are rich in carbon obtained by pyrolysis processes that consist in introducing a biomass (such as wood or manure) in a closed container and heating it with little or no available air. This paper reports the impacts of pyrolysis parameters on biochar characteristics. A preliminary examination of the scientific literature revealed that the type of feedstock, the temperature, the heating rate and the gas flow were the major parameters influencing the biochar characteristics. This review highlights the multitude of biochars that can be made and shows the importance of characterizing them before their use in soils. Then we assess how the input of biochars in soils can affect soil parameters. A review of the literature showed modifications on: i) the physical properties of soils (i.e. the modification in soil structure and water retention), ii) the chemical properties of soils (i.e. the modification of pH, cation exchange capacity, nutrient availability, the organic matter content) and iii) the biological properties (i.e. the changes in microbial and faunal communities). All these modifications can lead to an increase in crop productivity, which confirms the value of biochars as a soil amendment. Moreover, biochars can also provide an advantage for soil remediation. Indeed, biochars efficiently reduce the bioavailability of organic and inorganic pollutants. In addition, this review focuses on a specific plant that can be used to produce biochars: Miscanthus, a non-wood rhizomatous C4 perennial grass. Miscanthus presents advantages for biochar production due to: i) its lignocellulosic content, ii) its silicon content, which can mitigate environmental stresses (notably for plants grown on contaminated sites) and iii) the greater surface area of the Miscanthus biochars compared to the biochars produced with other feedstock.
- Soil management
- Metallic and organic pollutants