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2011 ASA/SSSA/CSSA Meeting Report Highlighting Biochar Presentations

By Drs. James Amonette, Kurt Spokas, Jim Ippolito, and Hailong Wang

The 2011 ASA/SSSA/CSSA (American Society of Agronomy /Soil Science Society of America/Crop Science Society of America) annual meeting held October 16-19, 2011 in San Antonio, TX featured  nearly 60 presentations and posters that involved biochar.  More than half of these were concentrated in three oral biochar-focused sessions and 20 presentations were recorded and are available on-line at the meeting website (specific links are embedded below)

The first oral session represented the debut of the “Biochar Community” within the recently restructured American Society of Agronomy and was held on Tuesday October 18th.  Twelve speakers covered a variety of topics ranging from impacts of biochar on soil physical properties (compaction, water infiltration) to sorption of chemical species (soil nutrients, heavy metals, and  pesticides). There was a talk on the impacts of weathering on soil GHG potentials.  In addition, there were a few talks that focused on the varying biochar chemical and physical properties as a function of feedstock and production conditions. Overall, the session was well attended with an average of 70-80 attendees.

The first business meeting of the ASA Biochar Community was held immediately following the above mentioned morning session.  This Community fills the need for a scientific organization focused on the environmental and agronomic impacts of biochar, particularly related to soil applications, effects on plants, improvement of water quality, and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The Biochar Community aims to bring together scientists focused on all facets of biochar research, to generate discussion of results, and provide a forum to mold future directions of collaborative investigation.  The Biochar Community will hold a topical oral and poster session at next year’s ASA meetings in Cincinnati, OH (October 21-24, 2012).  For additional information on the community and its activities please contact Jim Ippolito or Kurt Spokas.

The next two oral sessions (Session 1; Session 2) focused on the environmental functions of biochar and were sponsored by S-11, the Soils and Environmental Quality section of the Soil Science Society of America. These sessions were also well-attended, with an average of 50-60 attendees. Topics included stability of biochar, sorption of contaminants to biochar and its use in heavy metal remediation, greenhouse gas emissions, moisture retention and acid-base properties, engineering of biochar including its use as a microbial inoculant, and the impact of biochar on bacterial populations and enzyme activities.

Other presentations and posters at the meetings covered similar topics and can be accessed by searching the meeting website