, Volume 350, Issue 1-2, pp 57-69
Date: 06 Jul 2011

Biochar adsorbed ammonia is bioavailable


Biochar is produced as a by-product of the low temperature pyrolysis of biomass during bioenergy extraction and its incorporation into soil is of global interest as a potential carbon sequestration tool. Biochar influences soil nitrogen transformations and its capacity to take up ammonia is well recognized. Anthropogenic emissions of ammonia need to be mitigated due to negative environmental impacts and economic losses. Here we use an isotope of nitrogen to show that ammonia-N adsorbed by biochar is stable in ambient air, but readily bioavailable when placed in the soil. When biochars, containing adsorbed 15N labelled ammonia, were incorporated into soil the 15N recovery by roots averaged 6.8% but ranged from 26.1% to 10.9% in leaf tissue due to differing biochar properties with plant 15N recovery greater when acidic biochars were used to capture ammonia. Recovery of 15N as total soil nitrogen (organic+inorganic) ranged from 45% to 29% of 15N applied. We provide a proof of concept for a synergistic mitigation option where anthropogenic ammonia emissions could be captured using biochar, and made bioavailable in soils, thus leading to nitrogen capture by crops, while simultaneously sequestering carbon in soils.

Responsible Editor: Johannes Lehmann.