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."

Explore further: Specialized species critical for reefs

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

Related Stories

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 ...

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. ...

Greenhouse gases from farmland underestimated

Apr 02, 2013

(Phys.org)—Changes in agricultural practices could reduce soil emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide and the atmospheric pollutant nitric oxide, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California, ...

Recommended for you

Landmark fracking study finds no water pollution

1 hour ago

The final report from a landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has found no evidence that chemicals or brine water from the gas drilling process moved upward to contaminate drinking water at one site ...

Politics divide coastal residents' views of environment

2 hours ago

From the salmon-rich waters of Southeast Alaska to the white sand beaches of Florida's Gulf Coast to Downeast Maine's lobster, lumber and tourist towns, coastal residents around the U.S. share a common characteristic: ...

Earthworms as nature's free fertilizer

6 hours ago

Earthworm presence in the soil increases crop yield, shows a new study that was published this week in Scientific Reports. "This is not unexpected," says Jan Willem van Groenigen, associate professor in the ...

A success in managed pressure drilling

6 hours ago

As one of BP's top 40 wells globally (and the only UK well qualifying for that category in 2012), the successful delivery of the Harding field's 'Producer North East 2a' well (referred to as PNE2a) was crucial to the business. ...

Passion for the natural world clears the waters

6 hours ago

A toxic legacy has hung over the picturesque northern NSW coastal hamlet of Urunga for almost 40 years. Although now obscured by dense vegetation, the forest of dead melaleuca trees at the edge of a wetland ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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