Influence of Biochar on C and N Transformation in Soil and Their Impact on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Friday, 19 December 2014: 4:00 PM
Rajesh Chintala, Tom E Schumacher, Sandeep Kumar, David E Clay and Douglas D Malo, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD, United States
The capacity of pyrogenic biochar to mitigate soil surface exchange of greenhouse gases (GHG) is dependent on the influence of biochar on physiochemical transformations of C and N in soils. Incorporated biochar amendments are hypothesized to interfere with transformations of C and N as a result of the unique recalcitrant chemical structure and surface complexity of biochars. The nature of interference by biochar with C and N transformations are assumed to be dynamic not only due to their highly variable amphilicity inherited from feedstock source and controlled pyrolytic processing parameters but also to variation in soil factors. Experiments comprised of laboratory and field studies were designed to gain insight into the priming effect of incorporated non-native biochar materials on the transformations of C and N species in the soil. Molecular structure and surface functionality of plant based biochar materials produced from carbon optimized gasification of corn stover (Zea mays L.), Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Lawson and C. Lawson) wood residue, and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) were studied in the laboratory using NMR and SEM-EdX. Biochar materials were found to be highly hydrophobic (low H/C values) with high aromaticity. The surface morphology of all the biochar materials was highly heterogeneous and pore size ranged from 1-22µm with the faces and edges of ordered sheets. In the field study, all the three biochar types were applied at a 1% (w/w) rate to a Maddock soil (Sandy, Mixed, Frigid Entic Hapludolls) located in an eroded upper landscape position and a Brookings soil (Fine-Silty, Mixed, Superactive, Frigid Pachic Hapludolls) located in a depositional landscape position. The crop rotation is a corn (Zea mays L.) followed by soybean (Glycine max L.). The priming effect of biochars on the transformations of C and N is determined by measuring the changes in soil C (total organic carbon, microbial biomass C, hydrolyzable C, and δ 13C) and N pools (microbial biomass N, inorganic N, and δ 15N). Greenhouse gas fluxes (CO2, CH4, and N2O) were measured and correlation studies will be conducted to determine the relationship with the interference effect of biochars on C and N transformation in soil. Initial data shows that biochar has an impact especially on CO2, and N2O emissions.