Hydrothermal treatment as a complementary tool to control the invasive pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana).
The rapid spread of invasive Pampas grass (PG) is having not only ecosystems impact, but also significant economic and social effects. The tonnes of bulky waste from the plant disposal require proper treatment to avoid seed dispersal, greenhouse gas emissions and landscape damage. In the pursuit of zero-waste management, hydrothermal treatment (HT) appears as a challenging alternative. The possibility of mobile HT systems offers an alternative to accomplish on-site both the PG waste management and the application of the resulting by-products within a circular framework. As a first step, this research shows that, without a prior drying step, the hydrothermal treatment at 100-230°C under autogenous water vapor pressure for only 30 min allows safe seeds inertization, while a stable carbon-enriched solid and an aqueous stream are generated. Prolonging the process for 2 h has no profitable effects. As the reaction temperature increases, the PG residue is converted into a material with 49-58 wt% of carbon, 41-32 wt% of oxygen and 3-4 wt% of ash. The pH (~6.3), low electrical conductivity (1.21-0.86 dS/m), high carbon content, open porosity (5-8 m2/g) and improved performance in seed germination and in the early growth test suggest the potential of HT-solids derived at 100-120°C as amendment to sequester carbon in the soil and improve its physico-biological properties. The phytotoxicity detected in the peat/lignite-like solids obtained at 200-230°C limits its application in soil, but calorific values of 22-24 MJ/kg indicate their suitability as CO2-neutral fuel. The agrochemical analysis of the liquid by-products indicates poor value on their own, but their use supplemented with compost may be an option.