Impact of biochar properties on soil conditions and agricultural sustainability: A review

Mohammad I. Al-Wabel, Qaiser Hussain, Adel R.A. Usman, Mahtab Ahmad, Adel Abduljabbar, Abdulazeem S. Sallam, Yong Sik Ok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

202 Citations (Scopus)


This review summarizes the influences of pyrolysis conditions and feedstock types on biochar properties and how biochar properties in turn affect soil properties. Mechanistic evidence of biochar's potential for enhancing crop productivity, carbon sequestration, and nutrient use efficiency are also discussed. The review identifies the knowledge gaps, limitations, and future research directions for large-scale use of biochar. Both pyrolytic parameters and feedstock types are considered to be the main factors controlling biochar properties such as nutrient content, recalcitrance, and pH. Biochar produced at low temperatures may improve nutrient availability and crop yield in acidic and alkaline soils, whereas high-temperature biochar may enhance long-term soil carbon sequestration. Biochar can also improve the efficiency of inorganic and organic fertilizers by enhancing microbial functions and reducing nutrient loss, thereby making nutrients more available to plants. Integration of biochar and chemical or organic fertilizers generally provides for better nutrient management and crop yield in most types of soils. Although biochar can improve degraded soils, it is not a panacea; as such, soil- and crop-specific biochar are needed in order to ensure optimum crop yield and agricultural sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2124-2161
Number of pages38
JournalLand Degradation and Development
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jul

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors extend their appreciation to the Deanship of Scientific Research and King Saud University for funding this work through the International Research Group project IRG-14-14.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • agricultural sustainability
  • biochar
  • crop productivity
  • nutrient dynamics
  • organic carbon
  • slow pyrolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Development
  • General Environmental Science
  • Soil Science


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