Biochar as a waste management strategy for cadmium contaminated cocoa pod husk residues

Document Type : Original Article


1 School of Geology, Universidad Industrial de Santander, Bucaramanga, Colombia

2 School of Chemistry, Universidad Industrial de Santander, Bucaramanga, Colombia

3 School of Biology, Universidad Industrial de Santander, Bucaramanga, Colombia


Purpose The role of cocoa pod husk waste in soil cadmium contamination has been largely overlooked. Hence, this study aims to provide a strategy for the management of cocoa pod husk waste when representing a pollution menace for cocoa plantations.
Method Cocoa pod husks waste was subjected to composting and pyrolysis for decreasing the heavy metal content. Biochar and compost were characterized using SEM-EDS, and FTIR-ATR. Macro and micronutrients (Mg, K, Zn, Fe, Cu, Zn, Mn, and Na), and Cd were measured by atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS). Sorption experiments and soil incubation experiments for two months were also carried out looking for an application of CPH materials in Cd sorption and remediation.
Results Pyrolysis showed more effectiveness for Cd reduction in cocoa pod husk waste (90%) than composting (66%), 700 ℃ was the optimal temperature. Equilibrium isotherm experiments showed maximum Cd adsorption of 21.58 mg g-1 for Bc700 in solution. Biochar showed a small reduction of available Cd in naturally contaminated soil. Both materials have the potential to be used as organic fertilizer because of their high nutrient contents.
Conclusion Biochar is an alternative to compost for the management of post-harvest cocoa wastes contaminated with Cd.


  • Cocoa pod husk-based biochar is an eco-friendly waste management alternative


  • Production of biochar effectively decreases the Cd contents in cocoa pod husk waste


  • Composting doesn't reduce the Cd contents up to safe levels for agricultural application


  • Liming effect was found as the main factor that leads Cd sorption




Abbott C, Benjamin T, Burniske G, Croft M, Fenton M (2018) An analysis of the supply chain of cacao in Colombia. Technical report. Purdue University and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), USA.
Adegunyole D, Olotu T (2018) Effect of compost made from decomposing cocoa pod and animal dung on the yield of maize crop. Int J Environ Agric Biotechnol 3: 1166–1174.
Ahmad M, Rajapaksha A, Lim J, Zhang M, Bolan N, Mohan D, Vithanage M, Lee S, Ok Y (2014) Biochar as a sorbent for contaminant management in soil and water: A review. Chemosphere.
Aikpokpodion P (2010) Nutrients dynamics in cocoa soils, leaf and beans in Ondo state, Nigeria. J Agric Scienc 1(1): 1–9.
Amacher M (1996) Nickel, cadmium, and lead. In methods of soil analysis (Eds. Sparks D, Page A, Helmke P, Loeppert R, Soltanpour P, Tabatabai M, Johnston C, Sumner M).
Arguello D, Montalvo D, Blommaert H, Chavez E, Smolders E (2020) Surface soil liming reduces cadmium uptake in cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) seedlings but is counteracted by enhanced subsurface Cd uptake. J Environ Qual.
Batista C, Shultz J, Matos S, Fornari M, Ferreira T, Szpoganicz B, De Freitas RA, Mangrich A (2018) Effect of surface and porosity of biochar on water holding capacity aiming indirectly at preservation of the Amazon biome. Sci Rep 8: 1–9.
Borgerhoff-Mulder M (2007) Ecological, economic and social perspectives on cocoa production worldwide. Biodivers Conserv 16: 3835–3849.
Brewer E, Unger R, Schmidt-Rohr K, Brown R (2011) Criteria to select biochars for field studies based on biochar chemical properties. Bioenergy Res 4(4): 312–323.
Campos Filho P, Carvalho Silva R, Ferreira de Sousa D, Cunha e Silva S, Da Conceicao A,  Pungartnik C, Brendel M (2017) Use of theobroma cacao pod husk-derived biofertilizer is safe as it poses neither ecological nor human health risks. J  Fertil Pestic 08.
Cantrell K, Hunt P, Uchimiya M, Novak J, Ro K (2012) Impact of pyrolysis temperature and manure source on physicochemical characteristics of biochar. Bioresour Technol 107: 419–428.
Casteblanco J (2018) Heavy metals remediation with potential application in cocoa cultivation. La Granja 27: 21–35.
Cely-Torres L (2017) Oferta productiva del cacao colombiano en el posconflicto. Estrategias para el aprovechamiento de oportunidades comerciales en el marco del acuerdo comercial Colombia-Unión Europea. Equidad y Desarrollo 28: 167–195.
Chavez E, He Z, Stoffella P, Mylavarapu R, Li Y, Baligar V (2016) Evaluation of soil amendments as a remediation alternative for cadmium-contaminated soils under cacao plantations. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23(17): 17571–17580.
Chen Z, Liu T, Tang J, Zheng Z, Wang H, Shao Q, Chen G, Li Z, Chen Y, Zhu J, Feng T (2018) Characteristics and mechanisms of cadmium adsorption from aqueous solution using lotus seedpod-derived biochar at two pyrolytic temperatures. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25: 11854–11866.
Cilas C, Bastide P (2020) Challenges to cocoa production in the face of climate change and the spread of pests and diseases. Agronomy 10: 1–8.
Colombian Ministry of Agriculture (2020) Cadena de cacao: Indicadores e instrumentos.
Colombian Technical Standard NTC 5167 (2011) Organic products used as compost or fertilizers and soil improvers or conditioners. Bogotá: Colombian Institute of Technical Standards and Certification–ICONTEC. Accessed 20 June 2020
Davila-Jiménez M, Elizalde-Gonzalez M, García-Díaz E, Gonzalez-Perea M, Guevara-Villa M (2014) Using Akaike information criterion to select the optimal isotherm equation for adsorption from solution. Adsorpt  Sci Technol 32: 605–622.
Doungous O, Minyaka E, Longue E, Nkengafac N (2018) Potentials of cocoa pod husk-based compost on Phytophthora pod rot disease suppression, soil fertility, and Theobroma cacao L. growth. Environ Sci  Pollut  Res 25: 25327–25335.
Echeverria M (2018) Elaboración, caracterización y comparación de los abonos obtenidos a partir de residuos orgánicos y cáscara de cacao en la zona rural de la escuela cucharos. Dissertation, Universidad Industrial de Santander
European Commission (2014) Commission regulation (EU) No 488/2014 of 12 May 2014 amending regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 as regards maximum levels of cadmium in food stuffs. Official Journal of the European Union
FEDECACAO (2020) Colombia cacaotera. Aliados para el sector cacaotero. Accessed  15 November 2020
Fidelis C, Rajashekhar R (2017) Enriched cocoa pod composts and their fertilizing effects on hybrid cocoa seedlings. Int  J  Recycl Org Waste Agricult  6: 99–106.
Figueroa K, García N, Vega R (2020) Cocoa By-products. Food wastes by-products 373–411.
Filipović L, Romić M, Romić D, Filipović V, Ondrašek G (2018) Organic matter and salinity modify cadmium soil (phyto) availability. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 147: 824–831.
Freundlich H (1907) Uber die Adsorption in Lösungen. Zeitschrift Fur Physikalische Chemie 57U(1).
Godlewska P, Schmidt H, Ok Y, Oleszczuk P (2017) Biochar for composting improvement and contaminants reduction, A review. Bioresour Technol 246: 193-202.
Gyedu-Akoto E, Yavani D, Safi J, Owusu D (2015) Natural skin-care products: the case of soap made from cocoa pod husk potash. Adv Research 4: 365-370
Hale S, Nurida N, Jubaedah, Mulder J, Sørmo E, Silvani L, Abiven S, Joseph S, Taherymoosavi S, Cornelissen G (2020) The effect of biochar, lime and ash on maize yield in a long-term field trial in a Ultisol in the humid tropics. Sci Total Environ 719: 137455.
Han J, Shang Q, Du Y (2009) Review: Effect of environmental cadmium pollution on human health. Health 1(3): 159–166.
Hartemink A (2005) Nutrient stocks, nutrient cycling, and soil changes in cocoa ecosystems: A review. Adv Agron 86: 227–253.
ICCO (2021) Quarterly bulletin of cocoa statistics, Vol. XLVII, No 2, Cocoa year 2020-2021. Accessed 25 June 2021
Igalavithana A, Kwon E, Vithanage M, Rinklebe J, Moon D, Meers E, Tsang, D, Ok Y (2019) Soil lead immobilization by biochars in short-term laboratory incubation studies. Environ Int 127: 190–198.
Illera V, Garrido F, Serrano S, García-González M (2004) Immobilization of the heavy metals Cd, Cu and Pb in an acid soil amended with gypsum- and lime-rich industrial by-products. Eur J Soil Sci 55: 135–145.
Jordão C, Pereira W, Carari D, Fernandes R, De Almeida R, Fontes M (2011) Adsorption from Brazilian soils of Cu(II) and Cd(II) using cattle manure vermicompost. Int J Environ Stud 68: 719–736.
Karim A, Kumar M, Singh S, Pand C, Mishra B (2017) Potassium enriched biochar production by thermal plasma processing of banana peduncle for soil application. J Anal Appl Pyrolysis 123: 165–172.
Keiluweit M, Nico P, Johnson M, Kleber M (2010) Dynamic molecular structure of plant biomass-derived black carbon (Biochar). Environ Sci Technol 44: 1247–1253.
Kiggundu N, Sittamukyoto J (2019) Pyrolysis of coffee husks for biochar production. J Environ Prot 10: 1553–1564.
Kim H, Kim J, Kim M, Hyun S, Moon D (2017) Sorption of sulfathiazole in the soil treated with giant Miscanthus-derived biochar: Effect of biochar pyrolysis temperature, soil pH, and aging period. Environ Sci  Pollut  Res 25: 25681–25689.
King W, Rodriguez J, Wai C (1974) Losses of trace concentrations of cadmium from aqueous solution during storage in glass containers. Anal Chem 46: 771–773.
Langmuir I (1918) Adsorption of gases on glass, mica and platinum. J Ame Chem Soc 40(9): 1361–1403.
Li J, Li Y, Wu Y, Zheng M (2014) A comparison of biochars from lignin, cellulose and wood as the sorbent to an aromatic pollutant. J  Hazard  Mater 280: 450–457.
Li F, Shen K, Long X, Wen J, Xie X, Zeng X, Liang Y, Wei Y, Lin Z, Huang W, Zhong R (2016) Preparation and characterization of biochars from eichornia crassipes for cadmium removal in aqueous solutions. PLoS One 11: 7–9.
Li Q, Gao Y (2019) Remediation of Cd-, Pb- and Cu-contaminated agricultural soils by phosphate fertilization and applying biochar. Pol  J  Environ  Stud 28(4): 2697–2705.
Lindsay W, Norvell W (1978) Development of a DTPA soil test for zinc, iron, manganese, and copper1. Soil Sci Soc Am J.
Lu F, Rodriguez-Garcia J, Van Damme I, Westwood NJ, Shaw L, Robinson JS, Warren G, Chatzifragkou A, McQueen Mason S, Gomez L, Faas L, Balcombe K, Srinivassan C, Picchionni F,  Hadley P, Charalampopoulus D (2018) Valorization strategies for cocoa pod husk and its fractions. Current Opinion in Green and Sustainable Chemistry 14: 80-88.
Mann S, Ritchie G (1994) Changes in the forms of cadmium with time in some Western Australian soils. Aust J Soil Res 32: 241–250.
Matott L, Rabideau A (2008) ISOFIT - A program for fitting sorption isotherms to experimental data. Environ Model  Softw 23: 670–676.
Miller R, Nair P (2006) Indigenous agroforestry systems in Amazonia: From prehistory to today. Agrofor Syst 66: 151–164.
Mirsal I (2008) Soil pollution origin, monitoring and remediation, 2nd ed. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, New Delhi, India.
Muehe E, Adaktylou I, Obst M, Zeitvogel F, Behrens S, Planer-Friedrich B, Kraemer U, Kappler A (2013) Organic carbon and reducing conditions lead to cadmium immobilization by secondary Fe mineral formation in a pH-neutral soil. Environ Sci Technol 47: 13430–13439.
Munongo M, Nkeng G, Njukeng J (2017) Production and characterization of compost manure and biochar from cocoa pod husks. Int J Adv Sci Res Manage 2(2): 26-31.
Nguyen V, Nguyen N (2017) Proximate composition, extraction, and purification of theobromine from cacao pod husk (Theobroma Cacao L.). Technologies 5(2): 14-23.
Odesola I, Owoseni T (2010) Development of local technology for a small-scale biochar production processes from agricultural wastes. Mech Eng 1: 205–208.
OECD (2000) Test No. 106: Adsorption - Desorption using a batch equilibrium method, OECD guidelines for the testing of chemicals, section 1, OECD Publishing, Paris.
Ortiz-Rodríguez O, Amanda R, Gallardo V, Rangel J (2014) Applying life cycle management of colombian cocoa production. Food Sci Technol 34: 62–68.
Ortiz-Rodríguez O, Villamizar-Gallardo R, Naranjo-Merino C, García-Caceres R, Castañeda-Galvis M (2016) Carbon footprint of the colombian cocoa production. J Brazilian Assoc Agric Eng 36: 260–270.
Park J, Choppala G, Bolan N, Chung J, Chuasavathi T (2011) Biochar reduces the bioavailability and phytotoxicity of heavy metals. Plant Soil 348: 439–451.
Park J, Wang J, Kim S, Kang S, Jeong C, Jeon J, Park K, Cho J, Delaune R, Seo D (2019) Cadmium adsorption characteristics of biochars derived using various pine tree residues and pyrolysis temperatures. J Colloid Interf Sci 553: 298–307.
Pinto T, García A, Guedes J, Sobrinho N, Tavares O, Berbara R (2016) Assessment of the use of natural materials for the remediation of cadmium soil contamination. PLoS ONE 11(6): e0157547.
Prokop Z, Cupr P, Zlevorova-Zlamalikova V, Komarek J, Dusek L, Holoubek I (2003) Mobility, bioavailability, and toxic effects of cadmium in soil samples. Environ Res 91(2): 119–126.
Rajaie M, Karimian N, Maftoun M, Yasrebi J, Assad M (2006) Chemical forms of cadmium in two calcareous soil textural classes as affected by application of cadmium-enriched compost and incubation time. Geoderma 136 (3–4): 533–541.
Ramírez-Sulvarán J, Sigarroa Rieche A, Del Valle Vargas R (2014) Characterization of cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) farming systems in the Norte de Santander Department and assessment their sustainability. Rev Fac Nac Agron Medellín 67: 7177–7187.
Ramtahal G, Chang Yen I, Ahmad N, Bekele I, Bekele F, Maharaj K, Wilson L, Harrynanan L (2015) Prediction of soil cadmium bioavailability to cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) using single-step extraction procedures. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 46: 2585–2594.
Ramtahal G, Chang Yen I, Hamid A, Bekele I, Bekele F, Maharaj K, Harrynanan L (2018) The effect of liming on the availability of cadmium in soils and its uptake in cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) in Trinidad and Tobago. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 49: 2456–2464.
Ramtahal G, Umaharan P, Hanuman A, Davis C, Ali L (2019) The effectiveness of soil amendments, biochar and lime, in mitigating cadmium bioaccumulation in Theobroma cacao L. Sci Total Environ 693: 133-563.
Roh H, Yu M, Yakkala K, Koduru J, Yang J, Chang Y (2015) Removal studies of Cd(II) and explosive compounds using buffalo weed biochar-alginate beads. J  Ind Eng Chem 26: 226–233.
Roy W, Krapac I, Chou S, Griffin R (2002) Batch-type procedures for estimating soil adsorption of chemicals. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/530/SW-87/006F. Accessed 20 June 2020
Salazar J, Bieng M, Melgarejo L, Di Rienzo J, Casanoves F (2018) First typology of cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) systems in Colombian Amazonia, based on tree species richness, canopy structure and light availability. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0191003.
Salmanzadeh M (2017) Cadmium accumulation in agricultural soils. Dissertation, The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.
Shi W, Shao H, Li H, Shao M, Du S (2009) Progress in the remediation of hazardous heavy metal-polluted soils by natural zeolite 170: 72–77.
Song W, Guo M (2011) Quality variations of poultry litter biochar generated at different pyrolysis temperatures. J Anal Appl  Pyrol 94: 138–145.
Spaccini R, Piccolo A (2007) Molecular characterization of compost at increasing stages of maturity. 1. Chemical fractionation and infrared spectroscopy. J Agric  Food Chem 55: 2293–2302.
Stafford A, Jeyakumar P, Hedley M, Anderson C (2018) Influence of soil moisture status on soil cadmium phytoavailability and accumulation in Plantain (Plantago lanceolata). Soil Syst 2: 9.
Stella Mary G, Sugumaran B, Ravichandran P, Seshadri B (2016) Production, characterization and evaluation of biochar from pod (Pisum sativum), leaf (Brassica oleracea) and peel (Citrus sinensis) wastes. Int  J  Recycl Org Waste Agric 5: 43–53.
Tan Z, Yuan S (2017) The effect of preparing temperature and atmosphere on biochar’s quality for soil improving. Waste Biomass Valori 10: 1395–1405.
Tan Z, Wang Y, Zhang L, Huang Q (2017) Study of the mechanism of remediation of Cd-contaminated soil by novel biochars. Environ Sci Pollut Res 24(32): 24844–24855.
Tandy S, Healey J, Nason M, Williamson J, Jones D (2009) Remediation of metal polluted mine soil with compost: Co-composting versus incorporation. Environ Pollut 157(2): 690–697.
Thomas E, Van Zonneveld M, Loo J, Hodgkin T, Galluzzi G, Van Etten J (2012) Present spatial diversity patterns of Theobroma cacao L. in the neotropics reflect genetic differentiation in Pleistocene refugia followed by human-influenced dispersal. PLoS One 7.
Tsai C, Tsai W, Liu S, Lin Y (2018) Thermochemical characterization of biochar from cocoa pod husk prepared at low pyrolysis temperature. Biomass Convers Biorefinery 8: 237.
Usmani Z, Kumar V, Mritunjay S (2017) Vermicomposting of coal fly ash using epigeic and epi-endogeic earthworm species: Nutrient dynamics and metal remediation. RSC Advances 7(9): 4876–4890.
Vaast P, Somarriba E (2014) Trade-offs between crop intensification and ecosystem services: The role of agroforestry in cocoa cultivation. Agrofor Syst 88: 947–956.
Van Poucke R, Ainsworth J, Maeseele M, Ok Y, Meers E, Tack F (2018) Chemical stabilization of Cd-contaminated soil using biochar. Appl Geochem 88: 122–130.
Vriesmann L, Teofilo R, De Oliveira Petkowicz L (2012) Extraction and characterization of pectin from cacao pod husks (Theobroma cacao L.) with citric acid. LWT - Food Sci Technol 49: 108–116.
Walkley A, Black A (1934) An examination of degtjareff method for determining soil organic matter and a proposed modification of the chromic acid titration method. Soil Sci 29–38.
Wen B, Zhang J, Zhang S, Shan X, Khan S, Xing B (2007) Phenanthrene sorption to soil humic acid and different humin fractions. Environ Sci Technol 41: 3165–3171.
Wu H, Lai C, Zeng G, Liang J, Chen J, Xu J, Dai J, Li X, Liu J, Chen M, Lu L, Hu L, Wan J (2017) The interactions of composting and biochar and their implications for soil amendment and pollution remediation: A review. Crit Rev Biotechnol 37: 754–764.
Xu Y, Chen B (2015) Organic carbon and inorganic silicon speciation in rice-bran-derived biochars affect its capacity to adsorb cadmium in solution. J Soils Sediments 15(1): 60–70.
Yan-bing H, Dao-You H, Qi-Hong Z, Shuai W, Shou-Long L, Hai-Bo H, Han-Hua Z, Chao X (2017) A three-season field study on the in-situ remediation of Cd-contaminated paddy soil using lime, two industrial by-products, and a low-Cd-accumulation rice cultivar. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 136: 135–141.
Yaneva Z, Koumanova B, Georgieva N (2013) Linear and nonlinear regression methods for equilibrium modelling of p-nitrophenol biosorption by Rhizopus oryzae: Comparison of error analysis criteria. J Chem 517631.