Sugarcane rice residue biochars and their applications
Friday, 19 December 2014: 4:15 PM
Sugarcane production in U.S. involves either pre-harvest burning or after-harvest burning of the residue. Approximately 70-90% of the dry matter of harvested sugarcane trash is lost through open field burning. This practice has caused considerable concerns over air quality and soil sustainability. We propose an alternative conservation approach to convert the sugarcane residue to biochar and used as soil amendment to conserve carbon and potentially improve soil fertility. In this study, fundamental properties of biochars made from sugarcane residue along with rice residues were tested for agronomic and environmental benefits. Sugarcane and rice harvest residues and milling processing byproducts bagasse and rice husk were converted to biochars at different pyrolysis temperatures and characterized. In general, sugarcane leave biochar contained more P, K, Ca and Mg than sugarcane bagasse biochar. Rice straw biochar had more S, K Ca but less P than rice husk biochar. Both biochars had higher available fraction of total P than that of total K. Sugarcane leave biochar converted at 450oC was dominated with various lignin derived phenols as well as non-specific aromatic compounds whereas bagasse biochar was with both lignin derived phenol and poly aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). Rice straw char was dominated with non-specific aromatic compounds. At 750oC, charred material was dominated with aromatic ethers while losing the aromatic C=C structures. These molecular and surface property differences likely contributed to the difference in water holding capacities observed with these biochars. On the other hand, rice straw biochars produced at different pyrolysis temperatures had no significant effect on rice germination. Soils treated with sugarcane leave/trash biochar significantly enhanced sugarcane growth especially the root length. Treating soil with either sugarcane leave or bagasse char also enhanced soil adsorption capacity of atrazine; a common herbicide used in sugarcane production, and reduced greenhouse gas emission. Overall, the conversion of sugarcane harvest residue to biochar as soil amendment improves sugarcane production for both agronomic and environmental benefits. Sugarcane residue biochar also showed the potential of other environmental use for remediation of petroleum hydrocarbons.