USDA Biochar Research: Land Application Advances to Reap Its Multifunctional Abilities

Friday, 19 December 2014: 4:30 PM
Jim Ippolito1, Kurt Spokas2, Jeff Novak3, Rodrick (Rick) David Lentz1, Mary Stromberger4, Thomas Ducey3 and Mark Johnson5, (1)USDA ARS, Northwest Irrigation & Soils Research Laboratory, Pendleton, OR, United States, (2)USDA-ARS, St. Paul, MN, United States, (3)USDA ARS, Coastal Plain Soil, Water and Plant Conservation Research Laboratory, Florence, SC, United States, (4)Colorado State University, Dep. Soil & Crop Sciences, Fort Collins, CO, United States, (5)US EPA, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Corvallis, OR, United States
Biochar is the solid byproduct from the pyrolysis of agricultural crop residues, manures, green wastes and wood-based materials. Pyrolyzing biomass causes inorganic and organic compounds to be concentrated within the carbonized remains of the original lignin and cellulose structure. It is through this complex mixture of organic aromatic structures and inorganic elements that potentially imparts biochars with special multi-functional capabilities. Our current research has focused on developing biochar to simultaneously sequester soil carbon and remediate degraded soils. This is accomplished by directly improving soil nutrient and moisture contents, sorbing pollutants, as well as altering microbial signaling. Maintaining these improvements needs to account for biochar physical degradation, which may be overcome by biochar-mineral associations. Additional research is focused on biochar use that minimizes soil microorganism population shifts in order to maintain current ecosystem services. Future USDA research involves more evaluations to understand the multifunctional role of biochar in the agricultural and environmental sectors (e.g., USEPA superfund locations). This presentation will provide highlights of current and future coordinated biochar research efforts from several key laboratory locations across the US.