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Plant Macro- and Micronutrient Dynamics in a Biochar-Amended Wetland Muck


Biochar is an organic carbon (OC) and plant nutrient-rich substance that may be an ideal amendment for bolstering soil organic matter and nutrient contents. Two biochars were produced by pyrolysis at 350 °C from pine chips (Pinus taeda) and swine manure solids (Sus scrofa domesticus). The biochar total elemental composition was quantified using inductively coupled plasma spectrometer and their surface chemical composition examined using a combination of scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and electron dispersive spectroscopy (EDS). The biochars were mixed into triplicate pots containing Lauderhill muck (Euic, hyperthermic Lithic Haplosaprist) at 0, 2.5, 5, and 10 % (dry mass). Four simulated water infiltration events were conducted during the 124-day incubation to assess the potential alteration in the leaching potential of soluble soil nutrients. At termination, the muck’s fertility characteristics were assessed, and dissolved cations were measured in water leachates. Neither biochars significantly increased the muck’s OC contents. Swine manure biochar contained higher K, Mg, Na, and P concentrations, and these differences were observable in SEM and EDS as differing amounts of surface-precipitated Mg and K salts. Correspondingly, swine manure biochar at all three applications rates significantly increased Mehlich 1-s K, P, Mg, and Na concentrations. Pine chip biochar only improved the Mehlich 1-extractable K concentration but did reduce soluble P concentrations. Water leachates from swine manure biochar treated wetland soil contained significantly higher soluble P concentrations that could create water quality issue in downstream ecosystems.

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We appreciate the generosity of Dr. Carl Trettin of the United States Forest Service by supplying the pine chip feedstock laboratory assistance by Sheeneka Green and Jerry Martin II with the USDA-ARS-Coastal Plain Research Center, and field support by Velton Banks and Matthew Paige of the Florida Sugar Cane League, Inc., and Jhonnie Tejeda and Juan Tejeda of the USDA-ARS-Sugarcane Field Station at Canal Point, FL. Parts of this work were carried out in the Characterization Facility, University of Minnesota, which receives partial support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSEC) program. There are no conflicts of interests associated with the authors, and the research was accomplished with USDA federal funds.


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Correspondence to J. M. Novak.

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Novak, J.M., Sigua, G.C., Spokas, K.A. et al. Plant Macro- and Micronutrient Dynamics in a Biochar-Amended Wetland Muck. Water Air Soil Pollut 226, 2228 (2015).

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  • Biochar
  • Wetlands
  • Soluble nutrients
  • Leaching