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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #292599

Research Project: INCREASING SUSTAINABILITY AND MITIGATING GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS OF FOOD AND BIOFUEL PRODUCTION SYSTEMS OF THE UPPER MIDWEST U.S.

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: Review of the effects of biochar amendment on soil properties and carbon sequestration

Author
item Xie, T - University Of Illinois
item Sadasivam, Bala Yamini - University Of Illinois
item Reddy, Krishna - University Of Illinois
item Wang, C - University Of Illinois
item Spokas, Kurt

Submitted to: Journal of Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Waste
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/29/2015
Publication Date: 7/13/2015
Publication URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/61253
Citation: Xie, T., Sadasivam, B., Reddy, K.R., Wang, C., Spokas, K.A. 2015. Review of the effects of biochar amendment on soil properties and carbon sequestration. Journal of Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Waste. doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)HZ.2153-5515.0000293.

Interpretive Summary: Biochar has been gaining attention, both in the public and scientific circles, as a means to combat climate change and at the same time improve soil fertility. In this review, we summarized the existing knowledge of biochar’s use as a soil amendment. The impact of biochar was dependent on the characteristics of the biochar, since all biochars are not equal in terms of their chemical and physical make-up. Biochar performed well for soil pH and organic carbon improvement and stability of soil fertilizer generated from its large surface areas and cation exchange capacities. These improvements result in increased crop yields, especially in acidic and coarse-grained soils. Biochar possesses great potential for wider agricultural utilization in the future; however, additional long term studies were recommended to evaluate soil biochar applications. These observations highlight that biochar amendments need to be selected based on the desired mode of action and not all biochar types are suitable for all soils. Additional research is needed to fully characterize the surface chemistry responsible for these effects. These findings could provide additional insight and direction in the focus of the benefits of biochar additions. These findings are significant to farmers and policy makers and will assist scientists and engineers in developing improved biochars based on properties to minimize agrochemical transport and improve soil carbon management.

Technical Abstract: Biochar is part of a series of materials referred to as black carbons, since biochar is produced by a chemical and/or thermal transformation of the original biomass material in different conditions. The objective of this paper is to summarize the characteristics of biochar from different feedstocks and its potential to maintain fertility and sequester carbon in agricultural fields. Properties of biochar were analyzed based on the summary of different biochar sources and indicators of elemental compositions, pH, surface area and cation exchange capacity were taken into consideration. Moreover, application effects of biochar were compared to evaluate the potential of biochars as crop fertilizer and carbon capture agent, based on some pot and field study results. Biochar performed well for soil pH and organic carbon improvement and stability of soil fertilizer generated from its large surface areas and cation exchange capacities, and increased crop yields significantly, especially in acidic and coarse-grained soils. Besides, biochar was proved to be an appropriate strategy for carbon neutral resulting from the carbon storage by itself and the decrease of total greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2, CH4 and N2O, although the effects of biochar on each gas differed significantly. Biochar showed great potential for wider agricultural utilization in the future; however, additional long term studies were recommended to test biochar application in the fields.