International Biochar Initiative Educational Webinar Series:

Recording: A Verified Biochar-Based Solution for the
Reduction of Cadmium Uptake in Cacao

Originally Aired: July 21, 2020 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM ET

Food safety is critical to good health and well-being, one of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in food are a growing concern as these can lead to increased risks for cancer, neurological and reproductive issues, compromised immune systems, and damage to kidneys, lungs, the liver and more. The source for these heavy metals in soils used to grow food or pasture animals is sometimes naturally occurring but often the cause is anthropogenic; smelting from mining, industrial wastewater mismanagement, coal-fired power plants to name just a few.

The European Union the main export market for fine grade Peruvian cacao - recently established new limits for cadmium content in cacao (Regulation 488/2014, January 1, 2019).   Given high levels of cadmium in parts of Peru, this new regulation is having a strong negative impact on the Peruvian Cacao Industry including important social dimensions since cacao cultivation is generally performed by small scale farmers that constitute one of the most economically vulnerable segments of the Peruvian population.  

To address the problem, a very large field trial in an already established Cacao orchard in the North of Peru (Piura) was undertaken with financial support from Innovate Peru.  In addition to testing biochar, a range of different potential remediation solutions were also trialled to give the experiment a comparative element.  The results demonstrate the superiority of biochar-based solutions.  Cost-effective applications of biochar can reduce cadmium uptake in cacao by 50-80%.  This in turn demonstrates that application of biochar at scale has the potential to reopen the European market to Peruvian cacao.   Dr. Brenton Ladd will discuss the progress toward achieving this larger goal and the implications for other crops impacted by metal toxicity.



Brenton Ladd Presenter

Brenton is on the Board of the International Biochar Initiative. He is also a research professor at the Universidad Cientifica del Sur in Lima, Peru. Biochar has been a focus of his research since 2012 and he coordinated the south American component of the biochar 4 Sustainable Soils project. His biochar research has focused heavily on the practicalities of production technologies and the development of biochar formulations that are optimized for addressing specific environmental challenges.

Kathleen Draper Moderator

Kathleen is a member of the IBI Board and Chair of IBI's Information Hub. She is also the US Director of the Ithaka Institute for Carbon Intelligence. The Institute is an open source network focusing on beneficial carbon sequestration strategies which simultaneously provide economic development opportunities both in the developed and developing world. She is an editor and writer for The Biochar Journal, sponsored by the Ithaka Institute. Kathleen also works with various different universities and individuals on projects that are investigating the use of biochar in cement and other building and packaging products to develop products with lower embodied carbon which can be made from locally available organic waste. She has written extensively about various topics related to biochar and is a co-author of the book "Terra Preta: How the World's Most Fertile Soil Can Help Reverse Climate Change and Reduce World Hunger" and “BURN: Using Fire to Cool the Earth”.


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