History and Use of Wood Pyrolysis Liquids as Biocide and Plant Protection Product

Kari Tiilikkala1, *, Leena Fagernäs2, Jasse Tiilikkala3
1 MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Plant Production, FIN-31600 Jokioinen, Finland
2 VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, P.O. Box 1000, FI-02044 VTT, Finland
3 University of Turku, FI-20014 Turku, Finland

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© 2010 Tiilikkala et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the MTT Agrifood Research Finland, Plant Production, FIN-31600 Jokioinen, Finland; Tel: +358400986172; Fax: +358341882584; E-mail:


Archeological studies have found that pyrolysis liquids were already used in the time of the Neanderthal. Wood vinegar and other slow pyrolysis liquids are produced as a by-product of charcoal production. However, future business ideas may be the other way round as pyrolysis liquids may replace synthetic chemicals in the form of pesticides and biocides.

Directives and regulations related to the sustainable use of pesticides govern and direct plant protection strategies towards a lower use of synthetic chemicals. It is hoped that many mega trends of global policies will boost the use of plant based products given that a reduced reliance on fossil fuel is a general target in the global food and feed production economy. Pyrolysis technology has been actively studied and developed around the world and is linked to the development of the knowledge based bio-economy. The importance and social impact of pyrolysis technologies will also be enhanced because it is a practicable technique in the sustainable use of wastes and biomasses. However, very little scientific evidence is available to support efficacy claims of wood vinegar and toxicology assessments of the products used. Wood tar has been investigated a bit more thoroughly. The aim of this review was to clarify the potential of slow pyrolysis liquids in agricultural use, in particular, in pesticide applications. In addition, some of the main challenges in developing novel bio control technologies are discussed and the barriers in the commercialization of biological control agents are revealed.

Keywords: Wood vinegar, pyroligneous acid, wood tar oil, essential oil, biorational, pesticide, biocide, wood preservative, slow pyrolysis, biochar, knowledge based bio-economy.