Research project BASTA: Biochar’s Added value in Sustainable land use with Targeted Applications in processes, growing media & (future proof) open-field cultivation

In progress BASTA
Landscape around ILVO's compost site

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Bart Vandecasteele

Bart Vandecasteele

Expert in sustainable growing media

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General introduction

BASTA investigated the economic, ecological and technical feasibility of biochar production and biochar utilization from residual biomass. Biochar was applied in manure and biomass processing, substrate crops and open fields. Multidisciplinary data (chemical, biological, economic and legal) were gathered to enable policy makers and companies to make intelligent combinations between starting materials, production parameters and biochar applications. The legislation concerning biochar production and use in Flanders and Europe was mapped. Biochar types were selected for further upscaling and application for (a) manure and biomass processing with the goal of 25% less greenhouse gas & ammonia emissions, and 10% higher process efficiency, and (b) production of growing media based on a biochar-based alternative to peat, with the goal of up to 10% less use of chemical crop protection products, 30% less nutrient losses, 10% more water retention capacity (WHC), and 20-40% peat replacement.

Research approach

The BASTA project has ended. Biochar production was tested as an alternative sustainable valorization method for existing residual biomass. Biochar was used for improved manure and biomass processing technologies with lower environmental impact. Biochar-based alternatives to peat were developed for sustainable and disease-suppressing soilless cultivation with more efficient use of water, nutrients and chemical crop protection products. The role of biochar for sustainable, climate-proof (re)use of lands under pressure, i.e. moderately metal-contaminated and drought-sensitive soils, was investigated. Multidisciplinary data about the life cycle were compiled to optimize the valorization potential of the biochar. Opportunities were identified for biochar production and application methods that are both profitable and societally desirable.

Relevance/Valorization

The knowledge gained during BASTA allows the consortium to determine the valorisation potential of biochars from specific input materials or targeted applications of individual companies by means of short R&D tracks. Business models can be developed based on this knowledge. Several companies in the BASTA committee showed interest in follow-up projects. A well-considered IP strategy is necessary here for good knowledge transfer and valorization of the results upon commercialization.