The Impact of Biochar Addition on Nutrient Leaching and Soil Properties from Tillage Soil Amended with Pig Manure

  • Shane M. Troy
  • Peadar G. Lawlor
  • Cornelius J. O’ Flynn
  • Mark G. Healy


The application of pig manure to a tillage soil can result in pollution of surface and groundwater bodies. Countries in the European Union are required to comply with the Water Framework Directive, which states that all countries should attain at least “good status” surface and ground water quality by 2015. Amendment of soil with biochar has previously been shown to reduce nutrient leaching and improve soil properties. The objectives of this laboratory study were to investigate if the application of two types of biochar at a rate of 18 t ha−1 (a) reduced leaching of carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) from a low P Index tillage soil amended with pig manure and (b) affected the soil properties before and after pig manure application. Three treatments were examined as follows: (a) non-amended soil (the study control), (b) soil mixed with biochar from the separated solid fraction of anaerobically digested pig manure, and (c) of soil mixed with biochar from Sitka Spruce. Columns, filled with sieved soil (<2 mm) and biochar (<2 mm), were incubated for 30 weeks at 10 °C and 75 % relative humidity and leached with 160 mL distilled water per week. Pig manure, equivalent to 170 kg N ha−1 and 36 kg P ha−1, was applied to half of the columns in each treatment after 10 weeks of incubation. Amendment with pig manure biochar increased the Morgan’s P content of the soil, while leaching of P and C also increased, indicating the unsuitability of pig manure biochar as an amendment to soils which may be used as pig manure spreadlands. However, the addition of wood biochar increased soil water, C and organic matter contents, while reducing nitrate and organic C leaching. The addition of wood-derived biochar to tillage soil which will receive pig manure may be justifiable, as it reduces nutrient leaching from the soil, sequesters C and may allow for higher application rates of pig manure.


Black carbon Water framework directive Nitrate Landspreading Phosphorus Carbon 



This research was funded by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries’ Research Stimulus Fund Programme under the National Development Plan 2007-2013. Shane Troy’s PhD was funded by the Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Scheme.


  1. Bateman, E. J., & Baggs, E. M. (2005). Contributions of nitrification and denitrification to N2O emissions from soils at different water-filled pore space. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 41, 379–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bengtsson, G., Bengtson, P., & Mansson, K. F. (2003). Gross nitrogen mineralization, immobilization, and nitrification rates as a function of soil C/N ratio and microbial activity. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 35, 143–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Borken, W., & Matzner, E. (2009). Reappraisal of drying and wetting effects on C and N mineralization and fluxes in soils. Global Change Biology, 15, 808–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. BSI. (1990). BS 1377-3:1990. Method of tests for soils for civil engineering purposes – part 3: chemical and electro-chemical tests. London: British Standards Institution.Google Scholar
  5. Busscher, W. J., Novak, J. M., Evans, D. E., Watts, D. W., Niandou, M. A. S., & Ahmedna, M. (2010). Influence of pecan biochar on physical properties of a Norfolk loamy sand. Soil Science, 175, 10–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chan, K. Y., Van Zwieten, L., Meszaros, I., Downie, A., & Joseph, S. (2007). Agronomic values of greenwaste biochar as a soil amendment. Australian Journal of Soil Research, 45, 629–634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chan, K. Y., Van Zwieten, L., Meszaros, I., Downie, A., & Joseph, S. (2008). Using poultry litter biochars as soil amendments. Australian Journal of Soil Research, 46, 437–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cheng, C. H., Lehmann, J., & Thies, J. E. (2006). Oxidation of black carbon by biotic and abiotic processes. Organic Geochemistry, 37, 1477–1488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cheng, C. H., Lehmann, J., & Engelhard, M. H. (2008). Natural oxidation of black carbon in soils: changes in molecular form and surface charge along a climosequence. Geochiica et Cosmochimica Acta, 72, 1598–1610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clough, T. J., & Condron, L. M. (2010). Biochar and the nitrogen cycle: Introduction. Journal of Environmental Quality, 39, 1218–1223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clough, T. J., Bertram, J. L., Ray, J. L., Condron, L. M., O’Callaghan, M., Sherlock, R. R., et al. (2010). Unweathered biochar impact on nitrous oxide emissions from a bovine-urine-amended pasture soil. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 74, 852–860.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clough, T. J., Condron, L. M., Kammann, C., & Müller, C. (2013). A review of biochar and soil nitrogen dynamics. Agronomy, 3, 275–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Collison, M., Collison, L., Sakrabani, R., Tofield, B., Wallage, Z. (2009). Biochar and carbon sequestration: a regional perspective. Low Carbon Innovation Centre Report for EEDA. Norwich, UK: University of East Anglia.Google Scholar
  14. DeLuca, T. H., MacKenzie, M. D., & Gundale, M. J. (2009). Biochar affects soil nutrient transformations. In J. Lehmann & S. Joseph (Eds.), Biochar for Environmental Management: Science and Technology (pp. 251–270). London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  15. Dempster, D. N., Jones, D. L., & Murphy, D. M. (2012). Clay and biochar amendments decreased inorganic but not dissolved organic nitrogen leaching in soil. Soil Research, 50, 216–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dobbie, K. E., & Smith, K. A. (2001). The effects of temperature, water-filled pore space and land use on N2O emissions from an imperfectly drained gleysol. European Journal of Soil Science, 52, 667–673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Downie, A., Crosky, A., & Munroe, P. (2009). Physical properties of biochar. In J. Lehmann & S. Joseph (Eds.), Biochar for Environmental Management: Science and Technology (pp. 13–32). London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  18. EC (2000). Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy.Google Scholar
  19. EEC (1991). Council Directive 91/676/EEC of 12 December 1991 concerning the protection of waters against pollution by nitrates from agricultural sources.Google Scholar
  20. Fenton, O., Healy, M. G., Rodgers, M., & O’ Huallachain, D. (2009). Site-specific P absorbency of ochre from acid mine-drainage near an abandoned Cu-S mine in the Avoca-Avonmore catchment, Ireland. Clay Minerals, 44, 113–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gaskin, J. W., Steiner, C., Harris, K., Das, K. C., & Bibens, B. (2008). Effect of low-temperature pyrolysis conditions on biochar for agricultural use. Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, 51, 2061–2069.Google Scholar
  22. Glaser, B., Lehmann, J., & Zech, W. (2002). Ameliorating physical and chemical properties of highly weathered soils in the tropics with charcoal – a review. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 35, 219–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hackett, R. (2007). Exploiting pig manure as a nutrient source for cereals in Ireland. Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland: National Tillage Conference, Teagasc, Crop Reserach Centre.Google Scholar
  24. Haney, R. L., & Haney, E. B. (2010). Simple and rapid laboratory method for rewetting dry soil for incubations. Comms. Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 41, 1493–1501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ishii, T., & Kadoya, K. (1994). Effects of charcoal as a soil conditioner on citrus growth and vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizal development. Journal of the Japanese Society of Horticultural Science, 63, 529–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jahangir, M. M. R., Khalil, M. I., Johnston, P., Cardenas, L. M., Hatch, D. J., Butler, M., et al. (2012). Denitrification potential in subsoils: A mechanism to reduce nitrate leaching to groundwater. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 147, 13–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kim, E. J., Oh, J. E., & Chang, Y. S. (2003). Effects of forest fire on the level and distribution of PCDD/Fs and PAHs in soil. Science of the Total Environment, 311, 177–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Laird, D. A., Fleming, P., Wang, B., Horton, R., & Karlen, D. L. (2010a). Biochar impact on nutrient leaching from a Midwestern agricultural soil. Geoderma, 158, 436–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Laird, D. A., Fleming, P., Davis, D. D., Horton, R., Wang, B., & Karlen, D. L. (2010b). Impact of biochar amendments on the quality of a typical Midwestern agricultural soil. Geoderma, 158, 443–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lehmann, J., & Rondon, M. (2006). Biochar soil management on highly weathered soils in the humid tropics. In N. Uphoff (Ed.), Biological approaches to sustainable soil systems (pp. 517–530). Florida: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lehmann, J., da Silva, J. P., Jr., Steiner, C., Nehls, T., Zech, W., & Glaser, B. (2003). Nutrient availability and leaching in an archaeological Anthrosol and a Ferrasol of the Central Amazon basin: fertilizer, manure and charcoal amendments. Plant and Soil, 249, 343–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liang, B., Lehmann, J., Solomon, D., Kinyangi, J., Grossman, J., O’Neill, B., et al. (2006). Black carbon increases cation exchange capacity in soils. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 70, 1719–1730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McDowell, R. W., & Sharpley, A. N. (2001). Soil phosphorus fractions in solution: influence of fertiliser and manure, filtration and method of determination. Chemosphere, 45, 737–748.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Morgan, M.F. (1941). Chemical soil diagnosis by the Universal Soil Testing System. Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station Bulletin 450, Connecticut.Google Scholar
  35. Novak, J. M., Busscher, W. J., Laird, D. A., Ahmedna, M., Watts, D. W., & Niandou, M. A. S. (2009). Impact of biochar amendment on fertility of a south-eastern coastal plain soil. Soil Science, 174, 105–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. O’Flynn, C. J., Healy, M. G., Lanigan, G. J., Troy, S. M., Somers, C., & Fenton, O. (2013). Impact of chemically amended pig slurry on greenhouse gas emissions, soil properties and leachate. Journal of Environmental Management, 128, 690–698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Porporato, A., Odorico, P. D., Laio, F., & Rodriguez-Iturbe, I. (2003). Hydrologic controls on soil carbon and nitrogen cycles. I. Modelling scheme. Water Resources, 26, 45–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Regan, J. T., Rodgers, M., Kirwan, L., Fenton, O., & Healy, M. G. (2010). Determining phosphorus and sediment release rates from five Irish tillage soils. Journal of Environmental Quality, 39, 185–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rivett, M. O., Buss, S. R., Morgan, P., Smith, J. W. N., & Bemment, C. D. (2008). Nitrate attenuation in groundwater: A review of biogeochemical controlling processes. Water Resources, 42, 4215–4232.Google Scholar
  40. Ro, K. S., Cantrell, K. B., & Hunt, P. G. (2010). High-temperature pyrolysis of blended animal manures for producing renewable energy and value-added biochar. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, 49, 10125–10131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. SAS Institute. (2004). 9.1.3 Service Pack 4 Copyright (c) 2002-2003. North Carolina: SAS Institute Inc.Google Scholar
  42. Schulte, R. P. O., Melland, A. R., Fenton, O., Herlihy, M., Richards, K. G., & Jordan, P. (2010). Modelling soil phosphorus decline: expectations of Water Framework Directive policies. Environmental Science Policy, 13, 472–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Singh, B. P., Hatton, B. J., Singh, B., Cowiw, A. L., & Kathuria, A. (2010). Influence of biochars on nitrous oxide emission and nitrogen leaching from two contrasting soils. Journal of Environmental Quality, 39, 1224–1235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Steiner, C., Glaser, B., Teixeira, W. G., Lehmann, J., Blum, W. E. H., & Zech, W. (2008a). Nitrogen retention and plant uptake on a highly weathered central Amazonian Ferralsol amended with compost and charcoal. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, 171, 893–899.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Steiner, C., de Arruda, M. R., Teixeira, W. G., & Zech, W. (2008b). Soil respiration curves as soil fertility indicators in perennial central Amazonian plantations treated with charcoal, and mineral or organic fertilisers. Tropical Science, 47, 218–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Streubel, J. D., Collins, H. P., Garcia-Perez, M., Tarara, J., Granatstein, D., & Kruger, C. E. (2011). Influence of contrasting biochar types on five soils at increasing rates of application. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 75, 1402–1413.Google Scholar
  47. Troy, S. M., Nolan, T., Leahy, J. J., Lawlor, P. G., Healy, M. G., & Kwapinski, W. (2013a). Effect of sawdust addition and composting of feedstock on renewable energy and biochar production from pyrolysis of anaerobically digested pig manure. Biomass and Bioenergy, 49, 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Troy, S. M., Lawlor, P. G., O’ Flynn, C. J., & Healy, M. G. (2013b). Impact of biochar addition to soil on greenhouse gas emissions following pig manure application. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 60, 173–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Van Gestel, M., Ladd, J. N., & Amato, M. (1991). Carbon and nitrogen mineralization from two soils of contrasting texture and micro-aggregate stability: influence of sequential fumigation, drying and storage. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 23, 313–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Verhejien, F., Jeddery, S., Bastos, A., van der Velde, C.M., Diafas, I. (2010). Biochar Application to Soils. A Critical Scientific Review of Effects on Soil Properties, Processes and Functions. Luxembourg: European Commission Joint Research Centre Scientific and Technical Reports, Institute for Environment and Sustainability.Google Scholar
  51. Walsh, S. (2012). A summary of climate averages for Ireland 1981-2010. Dublin: Met Eireann.Google Scholar
  52. Yanai, Y., Toyota, K., & Okazaki, M. (2007). Effects of charcoal addition on N2O emissions from soil resulting from rewetting air-dried soil in short-term laboratory experiments. Journal of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, 53, 181–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Yao, Y., Gao, B., Zhang, M., Inyang, M., & Zimmerman, A. R. (2012). Effect of biochar amendment on sorption and leaching of nitrate, ammonium, and phosphate in a sandy soil. Chemosphere, 89, 1467–1471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shane M. Troy
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Peadar G. Lawlor
    • 1
  • Cornelius J. O’ Flynn
    • 2
  • Mark G. Healy
    • 2
  1. 1.Teagasc, Pig Development DepartmentAnimal & Grassland Research & Innovation CentreCo. CorkIreland
  2. 2.Department of Civil Engineering, National University of Ireland, GalwayCo. GalwayIreland
  3. 3.Scotland’s Rural College, Future Farming Systems, Roslin Institute BuildingEdinburghUK

Personalised recommendations