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Biochar and Hydrochar Effects on Greenhouse Gas (Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide, and Methane) Fluxes from Soils

TitleBiochar and Hydrochar Effects on Greenhouse Gas (Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide, and Methane) Fluxes from Soils
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsKammann, Claudia, Ratering Stefan, Eckhard Christian, and Müller Christoph
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality

With a growing world population and global warming, we are challenged to increase food production while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. We studied the effects of biochar (BC) and hydrochar (HC) produced via pyrolysis or hydrothermal carbonization, respectively, on GHG fluxes in three laboratory incubation studies. In the first experiment, ryegrass was grown in sandy loam mixed with equal amounts of a nitrogen-rich peanut hull BC, compost, BC+compost, double compost, or no addition (control); wetting–drying cycles and N fertilization were applied. Biochar with or without compost significantly reduced N2O emissions and did not change the CH4 uptake, whereas ryegrass yield was significantly increased. In the second experiment, 0% (control) or 8% (w/w) of BC (peanut hull, maize, wood chip, or charcoal) or 8% HC (beet chips or bark) was mixed into a soil and incubated at 65% water-holding capacity (WHC) for 140 d. Treatments included simulated plowing and N fertilization. All BCs reduced N2O emissions by ~60%. Hydrochars reduced N2O emissions only initially but significantly increased them after N fertilization to 302% (HC-beet) and 155% (HC-bark) of the control emissions, respectively. Large HC-associated CO2 emissions suggested that microbial activity was stimulated and that HC was less stable than BC. In the third experiment, nutrient-rich peanut hull BC addition and incubation over 1.5 yr at high WHCs did not promote N2O emissions. However, N2O emissions were significantly increased with BC after NH4NO3 addition. In conclusion, BC reduced N2O emissions and improved the GHG-to-yield ratio under field-relevant conditions. However, the risk of increased N2O emissions with HC addition must be carefully evaluated.