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Effects of biochar and other amendments on the physical properties and greenhouse gas emissions of an artificially degraded soil

TitleEffects of biochar and other amendments on the physical properties and greenhouse gas emissions of an artificially degraded soil
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsMukherjee, A., Lal R., and Zimmerman A. R.
JournalScience of The Total Environment

Short and long-term impacts of biochar on soil properties under field conditions are poorly understood. In addition, there is a lack of field reports of the impacts of biochar on soil physical properties, gaseous emissions and C stability, particularly in comparison with other amendments. Thus, three amendments – biochar produced from oak at 650 °C, humic acid (HA) and water treatment residual – (WTR) were added to a scalped silty-loam soil @ 0.5% (w/w) in triplicated plots under soybean. Over the 4-month active growing season, all amendments significantly increased soil pH, but the effect of biochar was the greatest. Biochar significantly increased soil-C by 7%, increased sub-nanopore surface area by 15% and reduced soil bulk density by 13% compared to control. However, only WTR amendment significantly increased soil nanopore surface area by 23% relative to the control. While total cumulative CH4 and CO2 emissions were not significantly affected by any amendment, cumulative N2O emission was significantly decreased in the biochar-amended soil (by 92%) compared to control over the growing period. Considering both the total gas emissions and the C removed from the atmosphere as crop growth and C added to the soil, WTR and HA resulted in net soil C losses and biochar as a soil C gain. However, all amendments reduced the global warming potential (GWP) of the soil and biochar addition even produced a net negative GWP effect. The short observation period, low application rate and high intra-treatment variation resulted in fewer significant effects of the amendments on the physicochemical properties of the soils than one might expect indicating further possible experimentation altering these variables. However, there was clear evidence of amendment–soil interaction processes affecting both soil properties and gaseous emissions, particularly for biochar, that might lead to greater changes with additional field emplacement time.