Biorefinery-assisted soil management for enhancing food security

Iris K.M. Yu, Daniel C.W. Tsang, Deyi Hou

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: This communication aims to foster the integration of biorefinery and soil management for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Methods: The latest advances in biomass waste utilization and soil quality improvement are reviewed, based on which we identify the opportunity of bridging the two research areas and suggest strategic approaches for mutual benefits to waste management and soil amendment. Results and discussion: Globally, large amounts of biomass wastes from agricultural residues and food supply chains are produced each year. Thermochemical conversion of biomass wastes into macro-biopolymeric materials such as biochar can be applied as soil amendment to mediate soil acidity, increase water holding capacity, modify soil biota and retain nutrients, thus improving soil health and crop yield. The economic feasibility has been demonstrated in the literature and can be further improved by designing more cost-effective biochar. In addition, fine chemicals including valuable organic substances (e.g. succinic acid as pesticide) as well as nutrients (e.g. phosphorous) can be obtained from biomass wastes via fractionation/extraction and thermochemical or biological upgrading. Compared with biochar, bio-derived chemicals as soil additives are less explored and present an untapped potential in the massive market for agricultural utilization. The application of waste-derived products in the food supply chain demands rigorous quality assurance/control for compliance with safety-related legislation. Conclusions: The two approaches of agricultural waste valorization fall in the production of macro-size materials and fine chemicals, which can be coordinated by integrating complementary technologies, to offer benefits of maximal utilization of wastes as resources and high carbon recovery. A new scenario is expected to feature collaborations between biorefinery experts, environmental/chemical engineers and soil scientists to cater for the manufacturing and evaluation of products. Such a new research model will promote sustainable soil management to actualize a resilient future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4007-4010
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Soils and Sediments
Volume20
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Biochar
  • Biorefinery
  • Organic wastes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Stratigraphy

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