Director of Research


Prof. Donald Smith

Staff and PhD Students


Department of Plant Science, McGill University

The Department of Plant Science at McGill University undertakes the experimental work associated with pot and field studies conducted to evaluate the biochar-soil-plant interactions with various types of biochar produced.

BioFuelNet feedstock production trials at Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Different crops can be grown under greenhouse conditions (light regimes, humidity, and with specific deficit stress treatments imposed).

Because nitrogen is the most energy intensive input into the production of most non-legume crops, its application is investigated. In addition, the Department of Plant Science is equipped with facilities and expertise for field testing.

Biochar production depends on the feedstock and on the temperature and residence time at which the production is carried out. If continuous biochar production and application are to be scaled up to industrial scale, it is vital to develop suitable fundamental models that are based on the underlying physics and chemistry and can be used as predictive tools. Such a model would help the understanding, design and control of the process and save money and reduce the environmental impact by reducing the number of experiments. This project will bring together a pool of experimental experts whose work will help make a step change in our ability to produce biochar.

Current projects

  • Interactions of biochar with microbe-to-plant signal compounds
  • Interactions of biochar with plant growth promoting bacteria
  • Effect of biochars on bioremediation capacity of plant-microbe associations
  • Effects of biochar on crop productivity
  • Effect of biochar feedstock material on biochar plant growth promotion
  • Biochar enhancement of microbial populations

Areas of Analytical Capabilities

  • Crop growth, development and productivity
  • Crop physiology
  • Gene expression
  • Proteomics