The award for the best doctoral thesis of the year 2022 granted to Subin Kalu

The Finnish Natural Resources Research Foundation encourages young research students to specialise in research that promotes the sustainable use of Finland’s natural resources by granting an annual award of EUR 10,000 for a doctoral thesis that best advances the Foundation’s goals. This time, the Foundation received 14 proposals for the award from seven Finnish universities.

The award for the best doctoral thesis in 2022 was granted to Subin Kalu, Ph.D., who earned his doctoral degree from the University of Helsinki. In his doctoral thesis “Long-term effects of biochars as a soil modification in boreal agricultural soil”, Subin Kalu studied the long-term effects of biochar on fields in southern Finland. As a durable, porous and carbon-containing substance, biochar is of great interest because of its ability to bind atmospheric carbon, while having a positive impact on agriculture and the environment. Presenting novel scientific and technical results, Kalu’s thesis is of a very high standard. It presents unique results on the long-term potential of biochar to increase the intake of nutrients, specially nitrogen, by plants, which in turn reduces the need for fertilisation in agriculture. Kalu’s research shows that biochar offers a safe means of strengthening soil’s properties as a carbon sink for the benefit of the climate. The work promotes the principles of sustainable development related to carbon neutrality, the improvement of soil properties and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to its strong scientific merits, the thesis holds clear commercial potential as the need to gain new carbon sinks rapidly will increase in Finland and the EU in the coming years.  Biochar production is a growing business in Finland, with the market for biochar expected to grow. The utilisation of logging waste as biochar is an example of value-added products that are obtained from forestry’s side and waste streams in Finland. The Finnish company Carbofex Oy is already one of Europe’s largest producers of certified biochar.

Subin Kalu’s doctoral thesis meets the criteria set by the Finnish Natural Resources Research Foundation for the doctoral thesis award. In the thesis, extremely high scientific standards are combined with commercial potential in a way that promotes bio-economy and sustainable growth in Finland.

The thesis was supervised by Kristiina Karhu, Associate Professor of Forest Soil Science and Biogeochemistry, Priit Tammeorg, University Lecturer in Plant Breeding, and Asko Simojoki, University Lecturer in Environmental Soil Science from the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry of the University of Helsinki. Subin Kalu defended his thesis at the University of Helsinki on 2 September 2022. The opponent was Professor Claudia Kammann (Hochschule Geisenheim University) and the custos was Professor Johan Ekroos.