Plant and Soil

, Volume 350, Issue 1–2, pp 57–69 | Cite as

Biochar adsorbed ammonia is bioavailable

  • Arezoo Taghizadeh-Toosi
  • Tim J. Clough
  • Robert R. Sherlock
  • Leo M. Condron
Regular Article


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.


N stable isotope Ammonia Biochar Nitrogen Ryegrass 



Authors wish to thank Carbonscape™ for supplying three of the biochar materials used.

Supplementary material

11104_2011_870_MOESM1_ESM.doc (46 kb)
Table S1 Biochar elemental composition based on acid digestion. (DOC 46.5 kb)
11104_2011_870_MOESM2_ESM.doc (50 kb)
Table S2 Biochar water extractable ions. (DOC 50.5 kb)
11104_2011_870_MOESM3_ESM.doc (1.2 mb)
Fig. S1 Scanning electron microscopy images of eBC1 material pre (a) and post (b) exposure to NH3 gas. Magnification is x 2000. Scale bar equals 10 μm. (DOC 1.17 mb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arezoo Taghizadeh-Toosi
    • 1
  • Tim J. Clough
    • 1
  • Robert R. Sherlock
    • 1
  • Leo M. Condron
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Soil and Physical Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Life SciencesLincoln UniversityLincolnNew Zealand
  2. 2.Bio-Protection Research CentreLincoln UniversityLincolnNew Zealand

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