Findings on biochar, greenhouse gas emissions and ethylene

Dec 13, 2011

Adding a charred biomass material called biochar to glacial soils can help reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

Studies by scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are providing valuable information about how biochar-the charred biomass created from wood, plant material, and manure-interacts with soil and crops. As part of this effort, ARS scientists in St. Paul, Minn., are studying biochar activity in soils formed from glacial deposits.

ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA priorities of responding to and ensuring international food security.

Soil scientists Kurt Spokas and John Baker, who both work at the ARS Soil and Water Management Research Unit in St. Paul, found that amending glacial soils with biochar made from macadamia nut shells reduced a range of .

After the researchers amended the soils with biochar at levels ranging from 2 to 60 percent, emission levels for the and nitrous oxide were suppressed at all amendment levels. But the suppression in emission was notable only in soils amended with 20, 40 or 60 percent biochar.

The amended soils also had lower microbial production of carbon dioxide and lower volatilization rates for the pesticides atrazine and acetochlor. The scientists plan to follow these findings with new investigations on how (VOCs) in biochar affect soil microbe activity. As part of this work, they have already identified 200 different VOCs on some biochars.

Spokas and Baker also conducted the first study that documented the formation of ethylene, a key that helps regulate growth, from biochar and soils amended with biochar. They found that ethylene production in biochar-amended, non-sterile soil was twice as high as ethylene production observed in sterile, biochar-amended soil.

This strongly suggests that soil microbes are active in this biochar-induced ethylene production. The scientists also believe ethylene might be involved in plants' reaction to biochar additions, since even low ethylene concentrations produce various plant responses.

Results from this work have been published in Chemosphere, Plant and Soil Journal, and Annals of Environmental Science.

Explore further: Spain defends Canaries oil drilling plan

More information: Read more about ARS research on biochar in the November/December 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive… ov11/biochar1111.htm

Provided by United States Department of Agriculture

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Using biochar to boost soil moisture

Nov 08, 2011

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are leading the way in learning more about "biochar," the charred biomass created from wood, other plant material, and manure.

Can biochar help suppress greenhouse gases?

Apr 20, 2011

Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas and a precursor to compounds that contribute to the destruction of the ozone. Intensively managed, grazed pastures are responsible for an increase in nitrous oxide emissions from grazing ...

Can biochar help suppress greenhouse gases?

Mar 18, 2011

Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas and a precursor to compounds that contribute to the destruction of the ozone. Intensively managed, grazed pastures are responsible for an increase in nitrous oxide ...

Biochar: turning waste into wealth

Jun 10, 2009

As all gardeners know, manure helps the flowers grow. But that manure also gives off greenhouse gases, contributing to global climate change.

Is biochar the answer for ag?

Aug 02, 2010

Scientists demonstrate that biochar, a type charcoal applied to soils in order to capture and store carbon, can reduce emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, and inorganic nitrogen runoff from agriculture settings. ...

Recommended for you

Study shows no lead pollution in oilsands region

Oct 24, 2014

New research from a world-renowned soil and water expert at the University of Alberta reveals that there's no atmospheric lead pollution in Alberta's oilsands region—a finding that contradicts current scientific ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

erich_knight
1 / 5 (4) Dec 14, 2011
My reviews of the agronomic field trials & literature using Biochars clearly show consistent positive effects in temperate & tropical soils, what is not known, and in debate, are some of the mechanisms for the "black box" nature of biochar effects : MYC / AMF & microbe refuge theory, Glomalin soil aggregation & water films, microbial mats & quorum sensing.
As a feed ration for livestock & aquaculture; http://superstone...tations/
and the most startling, plant chemical signaling for expression of dormant genetic traits.

I sent DuPont work with heavy metals last year which initiated field trials Hg showing a 95% reduction of food web uptake!

Dr. Rattan Lal at OSU, was impressed by this talk given to the EPA chiefs of North America, complete text & links are here:
http://tec­h.groups.y­ahoo.com/g­roup/bioch­ar-policy/­message/32­33

The Establishm­ent of Soil Carbon as the Universal Measure of Sustainabi­lity