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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #248439

Title: Ethylene: Potential Key for Biochar Amendment Impacts

item Spokas, Kurt
item Baker, John
item REICOSKY, D - Retired ARS Employee

Submitted to: Plant and Soil
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/17/2010
Publication Date: 7/17/2010
Citation: Spokas, K.A., Baker, J.M., Reicosky, D. 2010. Ethylene: Potential Key for Biochar Amendment Impacts. Plant and Soil Journal. 333:443-452.

Interpretive Summary: Elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide, potential global warming concerns and prospective use of soil as a sink for carbon has attracted interest from farmers and land managers. The recent potential of converting biomass into charcoal represents one potential mechanism to reduce the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by returning this charcoal back to the soil as a carbon sequestration benefit and to increase soil fertility. However, the mechanisms behind these increases in soil fertility and plant growth are not fully understood. This research showed ethylene production from the biochar, which could be an added factor in the observed benefits from biochar additions. We observed increases in ethylene production which were a function of the biochar type and production conditions. Production from the soil+biochar also increased under saturated conditions. In addition, biochar alone without soil also produced ethylene by yet an unknown mechanism. This finding could provide additional insight and direction in the focus of the benefits of biochar additions on plant and soil microbial communities. These results are significant to farmers and policy makers and will assist scientists and engineers in developing improved mechanisms of biochar additions to minimize greenhouse gas implications and improved soil carbon management.

Technical Abstract: Significant increases in root density, crop growth and productivity have been observed following biochar additions to soils. However, there has not been a full elucidation of the mechanisms behind these beneficial crop effects. We report the production of ethylene in biochar-amended soil, which could be a vital contributing factor to the observed plant and soil microbial effects.