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Tailor-made biochar systems: Interdisciplinary evaluations of ecosystem services and farmer livelihoods in tropical agro-ecosystems


Bellè, Severin-Luca; Riotte, Jean; Backhaus, Norman; Sekhar, Muddu; Jouquet, Pascal; Abiven, Samuel (2022). Tailor-made biochar systems: Interdisciplinary evaluations of ecosystem services and farmer livelihoods in tropical agro-ecosystems. PLoS ONE, 17(1):e0263302.

Abstract

Organic matter management is key to sustain ecosystem services provided by soils. However, it is rarely considered in a holistic view, considering local resources, agro-environmental effects and harmonization with farmers’ needs. Organic inputs, like compost and biochar, could represent a sustainable solution to massive current challenges associated to the intensification of agriculture, in particular for tropical regions. Here we assess the potential of agricultural residues as a resource for farmer communities in southwestern India to reduce their dependency on external inputs and sustain ecosystem services. We propose a novel joint evaluation of farmers’ aspirations together with agro-environmental effects of organic inputs on soils. Our soil quality evaluation showed that biochar alone or with compost did not improve unilaterally soils in the tropics (Anthroposol, Ferralsol and Vertisol). Many organic inputs led to an initial decrease in water-holding capacities of control soils (-27.3%: coconut shell biochar with compost on Anthroposol). Responses to organic matter inputs for carbon were strongest for Ferralsols (+33.4% with rice husk biochar), and mostly positive for Anthroposols and Vertisols (+12.5% to +13.8% respectively). Soil pH responses were surprisingly negative for Ferralsols and only positive if biochar was applied alone (between -5.6% to +1.9%). For Anthroposols and Vertisols, highest increases were achieved with rice husk biochar + vermicomposts (+7.2% and +5.2% respectively). Our socio-economic evaluation showed that farmers with a stronger economical position showed greater interest towards technology like biochar (factor 1.3 to 1.6 higher for farmers cultivating Anthroposols and/or Vertisols compared to Ferralsols), while poorer farmers more skepticism, which may lead to an increased economical gap within rural communities if technologies are not implemented with long-term guidance. These results advocate for an interdisciplinary evaluation of agricultural technology prior to its implementation as a development tool in the field.

Abstract

Organic matter management is key to sustain ecosystem services provided by soils. However, it is rarely considered in a holistic view, considering local resources, agro-environmental effects and harmonization with farmers’ needs. Organic inputs, like compost and biochar, could represent a sustainable solution to massive current challenges associated to the intensification of agriculture, in particular for tropical regions. Here we assess the potential of agricultural residues as a resource for farmer communities in southwestern India to reduce their dependency on external inputs and sustain ecosystem services. We propose a novel joint evaluation of farmers’ aspirations together with agro-environmental effects of organic inputs on soils. Our soil quality evaluation showed that biochar alone or with compost did not improve unilaterally soils in the tropics (Anthroposol, Ferralsol and Vertisol). Many organic inputs led to an initial decrease in water-holding capacities of control soils (-27.3%: coconut shell biochar with compost on Anthroposol). Responses to organic matter inputs for carbon were strongest for Ferralsols (+33.4% with rice husk biochar), and mostly positive for Anthroposols and Vertisols (+12.5% to +13.8% respectively). Soil pH responses were surprisingly negative for Ferralsols and only positive if biochar was applied alone (between -5.6% to +1.9%). For Anthroposols and Vertisols, highest increases were achieved with rice husk biochar + vermicomposts (+7.2% and +5.2% respectively). Our socio-economic evaluation showed that farmers with a stronger economical position showed greater interest towards technology like biochar (factor 1.3 to 1.6 higher for farmers cultivating Anthroposols and/or Vertisols compared to Ferralsols), while poorer farmers more skepticism, which may lead to an increased economical gap within rural communities if technologies are not implemented with long-term guidance. These results advocate for an interdisciplinary evaluation of agricultural technology prior to its implementation as a development tool in the field.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Uncontrolled Keywords:Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:28 January 2022
Deposited On:07 Dec 2022 10:03
Last Modified:28 Apr 2024 01:40
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0263302
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)