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Greenhouse Gas Production in Mixtures of Soil with Composted and Noncomposted Biochars Is Governed by Char-Associated Organic Compounds

Borchard, Nils, Spokas, Kurt, Prost, Katharina, Siemens, Jan
Journal of environmental quality 2014 v.43 no.3 pp. 971-979
animal manures, aromatic hydrocarbons, biochar, carbon dioxide, carbon sequestration, composting, emissions, gasification, greenhouse gases, hardwood, methane, nitrous oxide, organic matter, oxidation, soil, soil amendments, soil productivity, soil treatment, straw, volatile organic compounds
Biochar application to soil has the potential to increase soil productivity while reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the atmosphere. However, techniques for conditioning this material for maximizing its effects as a soil amendment require elucidation. We examined changes of organic matter associated with two biochars after 175 d of composting and the resulting effects on GHG emissions during a 150-d incubation period. Composting decreased the amount of organic compounds that could be thermally released from the biochars and affected their molecular nature. These thermally desorbable organic compounds from initial biochars likely stimulated the oxidation of CH and inhibited the production of NO in soil–biochar mixtures. However, these reductions of GHG emissions disappeared together with thermally desorbable organic compounds after the composting of chars. Instead, addition of composted gasification coke and charcoal stimulated the formation of CH and increased NO emissions by 45 to 56%. Nitrous oxide emissions equaled 20% of the total amount of N added with composted biochars, suggesting that organic compounds and N sorbed by the chars during composting fueled GHG production. The transient nature of the suppression of CH and NO production challenges the long-term GHG mitigation potential of biochar in soil.