Biochar reduces nasty nitrous oxide emissions on farms

Apr 29, 2013 by Blaine Friedlander
Biochar reduces nasty nitrous oxide emissions on farms
Cornell scientists have found that biochar mitigates the presence of nitrous oxide in agricultural soils. An array of soils and biochar populates Johannes Lehmann's office desk. Bottled Terra Preta and Hatahara soils, left, join Cornell food and hazelnut biochars in his collection. Credit: Blaine Friedlander/Cornell Chronicle

(Phys.org) —In the quest to decrease the world's greenhouse gases, Cornell scientists have discovered that biochar – a charcoal-like substance – reduces the nemesis nitrous oxide from agricultural soil on average by about 55 percent and stanches emissions into the atmosphere. The research is reported in the journal Scientific Reports on April 25.

"We investigated the mechanics of denitrification, with particular attention to the climate-relevant nitrous oxide by adding biochar to ," says senior author Johannes Lehmann, Cornell professor of soil science. "Biochar consistently reduced nitrous oxide emission in agricultural soils."

Carbon dioxide has a quiet, but strong partner in climate-warming crime – nitrous oxide. This nasty gas is usually produced on farms from animal manure waste and the use of . In fact, nitrous oxide in agricultural soil has 298 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

"Hence the importance to reduce emissions," says Lehmann.

Agriculture in the United States accounted for almost 58 percent of all from 2003 to 2007, according to World Bank data, and almost 59 percent from 2008 to 2012. Generally, about 60 percent of all global nitrous oxide emissions come from agriculture, and about half of the greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture come from nitrous oxide.

"Despite this large importance of nitrous oxide for , there are very few strategies to mitigate the emissions in agriculture, compared to carbon sequestration in soils," says Lehmann.

First author Maria Luz Cayuela, a former Cornell in Lehmann's lab and now at the Universidad de Murcia, Spain, led the study. The soils and the biochar spanned a wide array of types. Some soils studied were acidic, others neutral; some were sandy, others filled with clay. The researchers examined soils rich in organic carbon, while other soils possessed low carbon amounts.

No matter the soil type or the biochar type the scientists used, a universal truth emerged: the emission of nitrous oxide was always reduced on average by about 55 percent, compared to benign nitrogen gas.

The study is titled "Biochar and Denitrification in Soils: When, How Much and Why Does Biochar Reduce N2O Emissions."

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More information: www.nature.com/srep/2013/13042… /full/srep01732.html

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erich_knight
1 / 5 (4) Apr 30, 2013
To appreciate the wider applications of Biochar, the use as a feed additive and nutrient management tool, Please review my presentation and slides of this opening talk for the USBI Biochar conference in Sonoma California. This is the third US Biochar conference, after ISU 2010 and Colorado 2009;

"Carbon Conservation for Home, Health, Energy & Climate"

http://2012.bioch...ntations

Modern Thermal conversion of biomass burns only the hydrocarbons in that biomass, conserving the carbon for the soil. At the large farm or village scale modern pyrolysis reactors can relieve energy poverty, food insecurity and decreased dependency on chemical fertilizers.

Please take a look at this YouTube video by the CEO of CoolPlanet Biofuels, guided by Google's Ethos and funding, along with GE, BP and Conoco, they are now building the reactors that convert 1 ton of biomass to 75 gallons of bio – gasoline and 1/3 ton Biochar for soil carbon sequestration.

http://www.youtub...VlZ9v_0o

If CoolPlanet Biofuels processed the entire projected US biomass harvest in 2030, of 1.6 Billion Tons, the yields would be;
120 Billion Gallons of tank ready fuel ,(The US uses 150 Billion gallons/year), and 0.3 Billion Tons of Biochar
The big numbers are jaw dropping,
The 0.3 Billion Tons of Biochar, with a surface area of 400 m2/gram means; One Ton has a surface area of 98,000 Acres!
Now for conversion fun: 98,000 Acres is equal to 152 square miles!! ....
So; 300 Million Tons of Biochar equals 45 Billion Square Miles, or 230 times the entire surface of the earth!

Costs; The field to wheel analysis is $1.50/gallon!

To review other developments in cleanburning cook stoves, pyrolytic home heating stoves etc. Please review my Sonoma Biochar Conference Report;

http://tech.group...age/3921