Modelling the potential for soil carbon sequestration using biochar from sugarcane residues in Brazil

David Lefebvre* (Corresponding Author), Adrian Williams, Jeroen Meersmans, Guy J.D. Kirk, Saran Sohi, Pietro Goglio, Pete Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

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Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum L.) cultivation leaves behind around 20 t ha−1 of biomass residue after harvest and processing. We investigated the potential for sequestering carbon (C) in soil with these residues by partially converting them into biochar (recalcitrant carbon-rich material). First, we modified the RothC model to allow changes in soil C arising from additions of sugarcane-derived biochar. Second, we evaluated the modified model against published field data, and found satisfactory agreement between observed and predicted soil C accumulation. Third, we used the model to explore the potential for soil C sequestration with sugarcane biochar in São Paulo State, Brazil. The results show a potential increase in soil C stocks by 2.35 ± 0.4 t C ha−1 year−1 in sugarcane fields across the State at application rates of 4.2 t biochar ha−1 year−1. Scaling to the total sugarcane area of the State, this would be 50 Mt of CO2 equivalent year−1, which is 31% of the CO2 equivalent emissions attributed to the State in 2016. Future research should (a) further validate the model with field experiments; (b) make a full life cycle assessment of the potential for greenhouse gas mitigation, including additional effects of biochar applications on greenhouse gas balances.
Original languageEnglish
Article number19479
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date10 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2020


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