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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: GREENHOUSE GAS LIFE CYCLE ANALYSIS OF BIOCHAR EFFECTS ON MARGINAL LAND CONVERSION TO SWITCHGRASS PRODUCTION

Location: Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research

2012 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
There are three major objectives to this research. The first is to quantify carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas emissions, and biomass yield for a managed switchgrass crop compared with unmanaged vegetation on marginal lands. The second is to compare direct incorporation of biochar prior to planting with a novel method to annually inject biochar into the soil at the same time as fertilizer applications. The third is to conduct a life cycle analysis to quantify the net global warming potential of each management strategy and compare them with unmanaged lands.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Soil respiration and N2O and CH4 emissions will be monitored on switchgrass that will receive biochar at 10 Mg/ha in one application prior to planting or at 2 Mg/ha in each of five annual applications. Soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) content will be monitored annually to a depth of 1.0 m. A life cycle assessment of greenhouse gas sources and sinks for each system will be conducted. Additional data to be collected will include volumetric soil water content, bulk density, air temperature, solar radiation, and rainfall. Weather data will be collected continuously during the growing season. Algorithms will be developed to quantify the effect of biochar on the measured soil properties.


3.Progress Report:

Biochar was applied at four locations, three in the fall and one in the spring. Soil respiration and nitrous oxide emissions were measured immediately before and after biochar application. Switchgrass seedlings were transplanted to all sites in May 2012 and fertilized in late-June/early-July. Greenhouse gas emissions were monitored before and after fertilizer application and will continue to be periodically monitored throughout the year. In addition, controlled environment experiments are being conducted to examine biochar effects on soil water relations and soil respiration. Because the project leader has left Penn State for a position at Brigham Young University, this agreement has been terminated. It will be re-established as an agreement with BYU once the project leader has officially joined the BYU faculity.


Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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