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

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. In this study in the Berambadi catchment (M-TROPICS critical zone observatory in southwestern India), the authors assessed the potential of agricultural residues as a resource for farmer communities to reduce their dependency on external inputs and sustain ecosystem services. Soil quality evaluation showed that biochar alone or with compost did not improve unilaterally soils in the tropics. Many organic inputs led to an initial decrease in water-holding capacities of control soils. Responses for carbon were strongest for Ferralsols, and mostly positive for Anthroposols and Vertisols. Soil pH responses were surprisingly negative for Ferralsols and only positive if biochar was applied alone. The socio-economic evaluation showed that farmers with a stronger economical position showed greater interest towards technology like biochar, while poorer farmers showed 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.

The paper was published in PLoS One journal.

More news


Escherichia coli concentration, multiscale monitoring over the decade 2011–2021 in the Mekong River basin, Lao PDR

Bacterial pathogens in surface waters may threaten human health, especially in developing countries, where untreated surface water is often used for domestic needs. The objective of the long-term multiscale monitoring of Escherichia coli concentration in stream water, and that of associated variables (temperature, electrical conductance, dissolved oxygen concentration and saturation, pH, oxidation-reduction potential, turbidity, and […]



Groundwater irrigation reduces overall poverty but increases socioeconomic vulnerability in a semiarid region of southern India

The development of irrigation is generally considered an efficient way to reduce poverty in rural areas, although its impact on the inequality between farmers is more debated. In fact, assessing the impact of water management on different categories of farmers requires resituating it within the different dimensions of the local socio-technical context. This study, led […]



Distribution of Burkholderia pseudomallei within a 300‑cm deep soil profile: implications for environmental sampling

The environmental distribution of Burkholderia pseudomallei, the causative agent of melioidosis, remains poorly understood. This study performed in Lao PDR and supervised by Alain Pierret (IRD-iEES Paris) and Olivier Ribolzi (IRD-GET), in the frame of the PhD of Khemngeun Pongmala, provides novel information about a putative association of soil biogeochemical heterogeneity and the vertical distribution […]