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Is biochar-manure co-compost a better solution for soil health improvement and N2O emissions mitigation?

Yuan, Yinghong, Chen, Huaihai, Yuan, Wenqiao, Williams, David, Walker, John T., Shi, Wei
Soil biology & biochemistry 2017 v.113 pp. 14-25
adsorption, bacteria, biochar, carbon dioxide, composts, denitrification, denitrifying microorganisms, environmental quality, enzyme activity, fungi, genes, greenhouse gas emissions, ion exchange, land application, microbial biomass, nitrogen, nitrous oxide, peroxidase, porosity, poultry manure, remediation, soil biological properties, soil organic carbon, soil quality, soil water, surface area
Land application of compost has been a promising remediation strategy for soil health and environmental quality, but substantial emissions of greenhouse gases, especially N2O, need to be controlled during making and using compost of high N-load wastes, such as chicken manure. Biochar as a bulking agent for composting has been proposed as a novel approach to solve this issue, due to large surface area and porosity, and thus high ion exchange and adsorption capacity. Here, we compared the impacts of biochar-chicken manure co-compost (BM) and chicken manure compost (M) on soil biological properties and processes in a 120-d microcosm experiment at the soil moisture of 60% water-filled pore space. Our results showed that BM and M addition significantly enhanced soil total C and N, inorganic and KCl-extractable organic N, microbial biomass C and N, cellulase enzyme activity, abundance of N2O-producing bacteria and fungi, and gas emissions of N2O and CO2. However, compared to the M treatment, BM significantly reduced soil CO2 and N2O emissions by 35% and 27%, respectively, over the experimental period. The 15N-N2O site preference, i.e., difference between 15N-N2O in the center position (δ15Nα) and the end position (δ15Nβ), was ∼17‰ for M and ∼26‰ for BM during the first week of incubation, suggesting that BM suppressed N2O from bacterial denitrification and/or nitrifier denitrification. This inference was well aligned with the observation that soil glucosaminidase activity and nirK gene abundance were lower in BM than M treatment. Further, soil peroxidase activity was greater in BM than M treatment, implying soil organic C was more stable in BM treatment. Our data demonstrated that the biochar-chicken manure co-compost could substantially reduce soil N2O emissions compared to chicken manure compost, via controls on soil organic C stabilization and the activities of microbial functional groups, especially bacterial denitrifiers.