New material to enhance crop yield

Dec 16, 2013
Images of a biochar structure taken with a scanning electron microscope. Credit: : A. Méndez, M. Terradillos, G. Gascó

Researchers at the UPM have developed a carbonaceous material from sewage sludge that when applied to soil can help to improve its quality.

The material is called biochar and was prepared and characterized by the research group of Resource Exploitation of the Technical University of Madrid (UPM). The biochar has promising effects because its addition can enhance the quality of , and consequently it can enhance crop yields. In addition, it has beneficial properties for the environment.

The generation of is increasing and its management and treatment have been studied over the last years.  Among the different usages of the sludge in countries such as Spain, where soil has a low content of organic material, we should stress its direct addition to soil. However, there are some factors that threaten this practice due to high level of salts, metals and organic compound which can even be toxics.

Researchers at the group of Resource Exploitation of the UPM have been working on the preparation and characterization of the biochar for several years. They also worked on the biochar from sewage sludge and also the effect of physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil, as a result improving this material. The obtained results so far are quite encouraging as they show how the addition of biochar to soil can enhance its quality (for example, its ability for moisture retention, pH or biological activity) and therefore, to enhance .

Aggregate formation in soil after addition of biochar. Credit: A. Méndez, M. Terradillos, G. Gascó).

Other positive effects of the biochar use from sewage on the environment are, firstly, the reduction of the solubility of the existing metals in sewage sludge. Secondly, it allows a thanks to the higher stability of the biochar which reduces its degradation and contributes to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

The researchers of the UPM are currently extending these studies for its application in the field of biochar from sewage sludge and other types of organic residues susceptible to be changed into . This research is a joint collaboration between the group of Treatment and reuse of organic wastes of the Institute of Agricultural Sciences at the CSIC, the department of Department of Environmental Engineering of the Technical University of Crete (Greece) and the Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Explore further: US northeast braces for flooding after record snow

More information: A. MÉNDEZ, A.M. TARQUIS, A. SAA-REQUEJO, F. GUERRERO, G. GASCÓ. "Influence of pyrolysis temperature on composted sewage sludge biochar priming effect in a loamy soil". Chemosphere 93 (2013) 668-676.

A. MÉNDEZ, M. TERRADILLOS, G. GASCÓ. "Physicochemical and agronomic properties of biochar from sewage sludge pyrolysed at different temperaturas". Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis 102 (2013) 124–130.

J. PAZ-FERREIRO, G. GASCÓ, B. GUTIÉRREZ, A. MÉNDEZ. "Soil biochemical activities and the geometric mean of enzyme activities after application of sewage sludge and sewage sludge biochar to soil". Biology and Fertility of Soils 48 (2012) 511–517.

G. GASCÓ, J. PAZ-FERREIRO, A. MÉNDEZ. "Thermal analysis of soil amended with sewage sludge and biochar from sewage sludge pyrolysis". Journal of Thermal Analysis and Calorimetry 108 (2012) 769–775.

A. MÉNDEZ, A. GÓMEZ, J. PAZ-FERREIRO, G. GASCÓ. "Effects of sewage sludge biochar on plant metal availability after application to a Mediterranean soil". Chemosphere 89 (2012) 1354–1359.

J. PAZ-FERREIRO, S. FU, A. MÉNDEZ, G. GASCÓ. "Interactive effects of biochar and earthworm on plant productivity and soil properties". Journal of Soil and Sediments, en prensa.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

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 ...

Biochar reduces nasty nitrous oxide emissions on farms

Apr 29, 2013

(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 ...

Recommended for you

US northeast braces for flooding after record snow

13 hours ago

Weather forecasters and emergency officials warned Sunday that melting snow would lead to heavy flooding in parts of the US northeast, with hundreds of thousands of people told to brace for fast-rising waters.

3Qs: Game theory and global climate talks

Nov 21, 2014

Last week, China and the United States announced an ambitious climate agreement aimed at reducing carbon emissions in both countries, a pledge that marks the first time that China has agreed to stop its growing emissions. ...

From hurricanes to drought, LatAm's volatile climate

Nov 21, 2014

Sixteen years ago, Teodoro Acuna Zavala lost nearly everything when Hurricane Mitch ravaged his fields, pouring 10 days of torrential rains on Central America and killing more than 9,000 people.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.