Agricultural food production is a main driver of global greenhouse gas emissions, with unclear pathways towards carbon neutrality. Here, through a comprehensive life-cycle assessment using data from China, we show that an integrated biomass pyrolysis and electricity generation system coupled with commonly applied methane and nitrogen mitigation measures can help reduce staple crops’ life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from the current 666.5 to −37.9 Tg CO2-equivalent yr−1. Emission reductions would be achieved primarily through carbon sequestration from biochar application to the soil, and fossil fuel displacement by bio-energy produced from pyrolysis. We estimate that this integrated system can increase crop yield by 8.3%, decrease reactive nitrogen losses by 25.5%, lower air pollutant emissions by 125–2,483 Gg yr−1 and enhance net environmental and economic benefits by 36.2%. These results indicate that integrated biochar solutions could contribute to China’s 2060 carbon neutrality objective while enhancing food security and environmental sustainability.
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The meta-analysis dataset generated during this study is available in Supplementary Data 1. The source data underlying Figs. 1–5 are available in the online version. Source data are provided with this paper.
This study does not generate codes.
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This work was financially supported by the Helmholtz-OCPC (Office of China Postdoc Council) Postdoc Program and Humboldt Postdoctoral Reserch Fellowship, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grants 42061124001, 72174197, 72025401, 71974108, 71690244 and 41961124004) and the Tsinghua University-Inditex Sustainable Development Fund. We would like to thank Y. Zhao for providing the SOC data.
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Supplementary Notes 1–6, Supplementary Tables 1–20 and Supplementary Figs. 1–9.
Supplementary Data 1
Effects of straw and biochar application on food production and environmental sustainability.
Source Data Fig. 1
Source data for Fig. 1
Source Data Fig. 2
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Source Data Fig. 3
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Source Data Fig. 4
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Source Data Fig. 5
Source data for Fig. 5
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Xia, L., Cao, L., Yang, Y. et al. Integrated biochar solutions can achieve carbon-neutral staple crop production. Nat Food 4, 236–246 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-023-00694-0
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