Application of olive mill waste-based biochars in agriculture: Impact on soil properties, enzymatic activities and tomato growth

Leila El-Bassi, Ahmed Amine Azzaz, Salah Jellali, Hanene Akrout, Evan A.N. Marks, Camélia Matei Ghimbeu, Mejdi Jeguirim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The olive oil industry is an important economic sector in Mediterranean countries. However, oil production is unfortunately accompanied by the generation of huge amounts of olive mill solid wastes (OMSW) and olive mill wastewater (OMWW). In the present study, a strategy is proposed for converting these olive mill wastes into biochar through pyrolysis, for their later use as an organic amendment in agriculture. Specifically, two biochars were prepared from the pyrolysis of OMSW at 500 °C, either alone or impregnated with OMWW (OMSW-B and I-OMSW-B). The characterization of the OMSW and I-OMSW samples and their derived biochars showed that the fixed carbon and ash contents in the feedstocks increased by 38% and 11% respectively for OMSW-B, and by 37% and 12% respectively for I-OMSW-B. Interestingly, the impregnation process significantly increased Na, P, K, Ca and Fe contents in the produced biochars. The effect of OMSW-B and I-OMSW-B amendments at different application dose (1%, 2.5% and 5% wt/wt) on the enzymatic activity of an agricultural soil was performed at laboratory scale with a pot test. The experimental results showed that phosphatase and urease activity increased with biochar application rate; amendment with I-OMSW-B at 1%, 2.5% and 5% enhanced the phosphatase activity by 63%, 142% and 285% and urease activity by 50%, 116% and 149%, respectively. On the other hand, dehydrogenase and protease activities were higher for the application rate of 2.5% biochar. Biochar amendment promoted tomatoes seedling growth after 10 weeks, which was highest in the application rates of 2.5% and 5% for both OMSW-B and I-OSMW-B. Thus, the produced biochars had great potential to be used as biofertilizers in agriculture.

Original languageEnglish
Article number142531
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - Feb 10 2021


  • Biochar
  • Biofertilization
  • Olive mill wastes
  • Pyrolysis
  • Tomato growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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