Technical feasibility and carbon footprint of biochar co-production with tomato plant residue

Pere Llorach-Massana, Elisa Lopez-Capel, Javier Peña, Joan Rieradevall, Juan Ignacio Montero, Neus Puy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 Elsevier Ltd World tomato production is in the increase, generating large amounts of organic agricultural waste, which are currently incinerated or composted, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. Organic waste is not only produced from conventional but also urban agricultural practices due recently gained popularity. An alternative to current waste management practices and carbon sequestration opportunity is the production of biochar (thermally converted biomass) from tomato plant residues and use as a soil amendment. To address the real contribution of biochar for greenhouse gas mitigation, it is necessary to assess the whole life cycle from the production of the tomato biomass feedstock to the actual distribution and utilisation of the biochar produced in a regional context. This study is the first step to determine the technical and environmental potential of producing biochar from tomato plant (Solanum lycopersicum arawak variety) waste biomass and utilisation as a soil amendment. The study includes the characterisation of tomato plant residue as biochar feedstock (cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin and metal content); feedstock thermal stability; and the carbon footprint of biochar production under urban agriculture at pilot and small-scale plant, and conventional agriculture at large-scale plant. Tomato plant residue is a potentially suitable biochar feedstock under current European Certification based on its lignin content (19.7%) and low metal concentration. Biomass conversion yields of over 40%, 50% carbon stabilization and low pyrolysis temperature conditions (350–400 °C) would be required for biochar production to sequester carbon under urban pilot scale conditions; while large-scale biochar production from conventional agricultural practices have not the potential to sequestrate carbon because its logistics, which could be improved. Therefore, the diversion of tomato biomass waste residue from incineration or composting to biochar production for use as a soil amendment would environmentally be beneficial, but only if high biochar yields could be produced.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-130
JournalWaste Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017


  • Biochar
  • Carbon footprint
  • Heavy metals
  • Tomato plant feedstock
  • Urban agriculture


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