Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 451–465 | Cite as

Application of hydrochar and pyrochar to manure is not effective for mitigation of ammonia emissions from cattle slurry and poultry manure

  • M. Gronwald
  • M. Helfrich
  • A. Don
  • R. Fuß
  • R. Well
  • H. Flessa
Original Paper


Nitrogen (N) loss as ammonia (NH3) from agricultural systems is one of the major sources of atmospheric pollutants and is responsible for more than 50% of global NH3 emissions. Ammonia volatilization from animal manures may be altered by amendment with chars derived from pyrolysis (pyrochars) or hydrothermal carbonization (hydrochars) by providing exchange sites for ammonium (NH4+) or changing the pH of manure. Pyrochar and hydrochar differ in chemical and structural composition, specific surface area, and pH and therefore may affect NH3 volatilization differently. In a laboratory incubation experiment, we investigated the effect of pyrochar (pH 9.0) and hydrochar (pH 3.8) from Miscanthus on NH3 emission after addition to poultry manure and cattle slurry. We analyzed manure treatments with and without char addition and acidification and determined the effect of char addition on immobilization of manure-derived NH4+. Ammonia emission from pure poultry manure amounted 84% of the applied NH4+-N, while 67% of the applied NH4+-N was lost as NH3 from cattle slurry. Addition of pyrochar or hydrochar had no or only marginal effects on NH3 emissions except for a reduction in NH3 emissions by 19% due to hydrochar application to CS (p < 0.05), which seems to be primarily related to the char pH. Sorption of NH4+ by admixture of chars to manure was generally small: between 0.1- and 0.5-mg NH4+-N g−1 chars were sorbed. This corresponds to between 0.1 and 3.5% of the NH4+ applied, which obviously was not strong enough to reduce emissions of NH3. Overall, our results do not provide evidence that addition of pyrochar or hydrochar to cattle slurry and poultry manure is an effective measure to reduce NH3 volatilization.


Nitrogen Cattle slurry Poultry manure Pyrochar Hydrochar Miscanthus pH Soil 



We thank Frank Hegewald and Dagmar Wenderoth for taking NH3 samples and for support on construction of the incubation system; Regina Lausch and Silke Weiss for sample preparation; Ute Tambor, Sabine Wathsack, and Monika Zerbian for laboratory analyses and Stefan Burkart for technical instructions and support. We thank the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute of Animal Nutrition (Braunschweig, Germany) and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry (Celle, Germany) for providing the manures.

Funding information

This project was financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG-Research Training Group 1397 “Regulation of soil organic matter and nutrient turnover in organic agriculture,” University of Kassel).

Supplementary material

374_2018_1273_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Thünen-Institute of Climate-Smart AgricultureBraunschweigGermany

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