Biochar from "Kon Tiki" flame curtain and other kilns: Effects of nutrient enrichment and kiln type on crop yield and soil chemistry.
ABSTRACT: Biochar application to soils has been investigated as a means of improving soil fertility and mitigating climate change through soil carbon sequestration. In the present work, the invasive shrub "Eupatorium adenophorum" was utilized as a sustainable feedstock for making biochar under different pyrolysis conditions in Nepal. Biochar was produced using several different types of kilns; four sub types of flame curtain kilns (deep-cone metal kiln, steel shielded soil pit, conical soil pit and steel small cone), brick-made traditional kiln, traditional earth-mound kiln and top lift up draft (TLUD). The resultant biochars showed consistent pH (9.1 ± 0.3), cation exchange capacities (133 ± 37 cmolc kg-1), organic carbon contents (73.9 ± 6.4%) and surface areas (35 to 215 m2/g) for all kiln types. A pot trial with maize was carried out to investigate the effect on maize biomass production of the biochars made with various kilns, applied at 1% and 4% dosages. Biochars were either pretreated with hot or cold mineral nutrient enrichment (mixing with a nutrient solution before or after cooling down, respectively), or added separately from the same nutrient dosages to the soil. Significantly higher CEC (P< 0.05), lower Al/Ca ratios (P< 0.05), and high OC% (P<0.001) were observed for both dosages of biochar as compared to non-amended control soils. Importantly, the study showed that biochar made by flame curtain kilns resulted in the same agronomic effect as biochar made by the other kilns (P > 0.05). At a dosage of 1% biochar, the hot nutrient-enriched biochar led to significant increases of 153% in above ground biomass production compared to cold nutrient-enriched biochar and 209% compared to biochar added separately from the nutrients. Liquid nutrient enhancement of biochar thus improved fertilizer effectiveness compared to separate application of biochar and fertilizer.
Project description:FLAME CURTAIN BIOCHAR KILNS:Pyrolysis of organic waste or woody materials yields charcoal, a stable carbonaceous product that can be used for cooking or mixed into soil, in the latter case often termed "biochar". Traditional kiln technologies for charcoal production are slow and without treatment of the pyrolysis gases, resulting in emissions of gases (mainly methane and carbon monoxide) and aerosols that are both toxic and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. In retort kilns pyrolysis gases are led back to a combustion chamber. This can reduce emissions substantially, but is costly and consumes a considerable amount of valuable ignition material such as wood during start-up. To overcome these problems, a novel type of technology, the Kon-Tiki flame curtain pyrolysis, is proposed. This technology combines the simplicity of the traditional kiln with the combustion of pyrolysis gases in the flame curtain (similar to retort kilns), also avoiding use of external fuel for start-up. BIOCHAR CHARACTERISTICS:A field study in Nepal using various feedstocks showed char yields of 22 ± 5% on a dry weight basis and 40 ± 11% on a C basis. Biochars with high C contents (76 ± 9%; n = 57), average surface areas (11 to 215 m(2) g(-1)), low EPA16-PAHs (2.3 to 6.6 mg kg(-1)) and high CECs (43 to 217 cmolc/kg)(average for all feedstocks, mainly woody shrubs) were obtained, in compliance with the European Biochar Certificate (EBC). GAS EMISSION FACTORS:Mean emission factors for the flame curtain kilns were (g kg(-1) biochar for all feedstocks); CO2 = 4300 ± 1700, CO = 54 ± 35, non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) = 6 ± 3, CH4 = 30 ± 60, aerosols (PM10) = 11 ± 15, total products of incomplete combustion (PIC) = 100 ± 83 and NOx = 0.4 ± 0.3. The flame curtain kilns emitted statistically significantly (p<0.05) lower amounts of CO, PIC and NOx than retort and traditional kilns, and higher amounts of CO2. IMPLICATIONS:With benefits such as high quality biochar, low emission, no need for start-up fuel, fast pyrolysis time and, importantly, easy and cheap construction and operation the flame curtain technology represent a promising possibility for sustainable rural biochar production.
Project description:Biochar production and use are part of the modern agenda to recycle wastes, and to retain nutrients, pollutants, and heavy metals in the soil and to offset some greenhouse gas emissions. Biochars from wood (eucalyptus sawdust, pine bark), sugarcane bagasse, and substances rich in nutrients (coffee husk, chicken manure) produced at 350, 450 and 750°C were characterized to identify agronomic and environmental benefits, which may enhance soil quality. Biochars derived from wood and sugarcane have greater potential for improving C storage in tropical soils due to a higher aromatic character, high C concentration, low H/C ratio, and FTIR spectra features as compared to nutrient-rich biochars. The high ash content associated with alkaline chemical species such as KHCO3 and CaCO3, verified by XRD analysis, made chicken manure and coffee husk biochars potential liming agents for remediating acidic soils. High Ca and K contents in chicken manure and coffee husk biomass can significantly replace conventional sources of K (mostly imported in Brazil) and Ca, suggesting a high agronomic value for these biochars. High-ash biochars, such as chicken manure and coffee husk, produced at low-temperatures (350 and 450°C) exhibited high CEC values, which can be considered as a potential applicable material to increase nutrient retention in soil. Therefore, the agronomic value of the biochars in this study is predominantly regulated by the nutrient richness of the biomass, but an increase in pyrolysis temperature to 750°C can strongly decrease the adsorptive capacities of chicken manure and coffee husk biochars. A diagram of the agronomic potential and environmental benefits is presented, along with some guidelines to relate biochar properties with potential agronomic and environmental uses. Based on biochar properties, research needs are identified and directions for future trials are delineated.
Project description:Recent meta-analyses of plant responses to biochar boast positive average effects of between 10 and 40%. Plant responses, however, vary greatly across systems, and null or negative biochar effects are increasingly reported. The mechanisms responsible for such responses remain unclear. In a glasshouse experiment we tested the effects of three forestry residue wood biochars, applied at five dosages (0, 5, 10, 20, and 50 t/ha) to a temperate forest drystic cambisol as direct surface applications and as complete soil mixes on the herbaceous pioneers Lolium multiflorum and Trifolium repens. Null and negative effects of biochar on growth were found in most cases. One potential cause for null and negative plant responses to biochar is plant exposure to mobile compounds produced during pyrolysis that leach or evolve following additions of biochars to soil. In a second glasshouse experiment we examined the effects of simple leaching and heating techniques to ameliorate potentially phytotoxic effects of volatile and leachable compounds released from biochar. We used Solid Phase Microextraction (SPME)-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to qualitatively describe organic compounds in both biochar (through headspace extraction), and in the water leachates (through direct injection). Convection heating and water leaching of biochar prior to application alleviated growth inhibition. Additionally, growth was inhibited when filtrate from water-leached biochar was applied following germination. SPME-GC-MS detected primarily short-chained carboxylic acids and phenolics in both the leachates and solid chars, with relatively high concentrations of several known phytotoxic compounds including acetic acid, butyric acid, 2,4-di-tert-butylphenol and benzoic acid. We speculate that variable plant responses to phytotoxic organic compounds leached from biochars may largely explain negative plant growth responses and also account for strongly species-specific patterns of plant responses to biochar amendments in short-term experiments.
Project description:Effects of biochars on soil silicon dissolution kinetics remain unaddressed. Si-rich rice husk (RH) and rice straw (RS), and Si-deficient wood sawdust (WB) and orange peel (OP) were applied to prepare biochars at 300-700?°C. The silicon dissolution of Si-rich biochars was relatively high in comparison with Si-deficient biochars, and increased with the pyrolysis temperature. The mechanism of silicon release is suggested to be controlled by a protective carbon-silicon interaction, as accompanied by carbon release. After mixing with soil, the addition of Si-rich biochar leads up to 72.7-121% improvement in silicon dissolution in a high-silicon soil (HSS) compared to 147-243% improvement in a low-silicon soil (LSS). The total cumulative amount of silicon dissolved decreased compared to the theoretical value due to the adsorption of silicic acid by the biochar. The addition of WB700 or OP700 as Si-deficient biochars leads to a cumulative Si dissolution decrease of 15.7 and 12.1%, respectively. The adsorption of silicic acid in the biochar and the protection of soil dissolved Fe make biochar a reservoir of soil silicon. Thus, Si-rich biochar could serve as a source of Si with slow release, while Si-deficient biochar could serve as an extra Si sink in agricultural paddy soil.
Project description:Slow release of nitrate by charred organic matter used as a soil amendment (i.e. biochar) was recently suggested as potential mechanism of nutrient delivery to plants which may explain some agronomic benefits of biochar. So far, isolated soil-aged and composted biochar particles were shown to release considerable amounts of nitrate only in extended (>1 h) extractions ("slow release"). In this study, we quantified nitrate and ammonium release by biochar-amended soil and compost during up to 167 h of repeated extractions in up to six consecutive steps to determine the effect of biochar on the overall mineral nitrogen retention. We used composts produced from mixed manures amended with three contrasting biochars prior to aerobic composting and a loamy soil that was amended with biochar three years prior to analysis and compared both to non-biochar amended controls. Composts were extracted with 2 M KCl at 22°C and 65°C, after sterilization, after treatment with H2O2, after removing biochar particles or without any modification. Soils were extracted with 2 M KCl at 22°C. Ammonium was continuously released during the extractions, independent of biochar amendment and is probably the result of abiotic ammonification. For the pure compost, nitrate extraction was complete after 1 h, while from biochar-amended composts, up to 30% of total nitrate extracted was only released during subsequent extraction steps. The loamy soil released 70% of its total nitrate amount in subsequent extractions, the biochar-amended soil 58%. However, biochar amendment doubled the amount of total extractable nitrate. Thus, biochar nitrate capture can be a relevant contribution to the overall nitrate retention in agroecosystems. Our results also indicate that the total nitrate amount in biochar amended soils and composts may frequently be underestimated. Furthermore, biochars could prevent nitrate loss from agroecosystems and may be developed into slow-release fertilizers to reduce global N fertilizer demands.
Project description:Soil amendment with pyrogenic carbon (biochar) is discussed as strategy to improve soil fertility to enable economic plus environmental benefits. In temperate soils, however, the use of pure biochar mostly has moderately-negative to -positive yield effects. Here we demonstrate that co-composting considerably promoted biochars' positive effects, largely by nitrate (nutrient) capture and delivery. In a full-factorial growth study with Chenopodium quinoa, biomass yield increased up to 305% in a sandy-poor soil amended with 2% (w/w) co-composted biochar (BC(comp)). Conversely, addition of 2% (w/w) untreated biochar (BC(pure)) decreased the biomass to 60% of the control. Growth-promoting (BC(comp)) as well as growth-reducing (BC(pure)) effects were more pronounced at lower nutrient-supply levels. Electro-ultra filtration and sequential biochar-particle washing revealed that co-composted biochar was nutrient-enriched, particularly with the anions nitrate and phosphate. The captured nitrate in BC(comp) was (1) only partly detectable with standard methods, (2) largely protected against leaching, (3) partly plant-available, and (4) did not stimulate N2O emissions. We hypothesize that surface ageing plus non-conventional ion-water bonding in micro- and nano-pores promoted nitrate capture in biochar particles. Amending (N-rich) bio-waste with biochar may enhance its agronomic value and reduce nutrient losses from bio-wastes and agricultural soils.
Project description:Evaluating biochars for their persistence in soil under field conditions is an important step towards their implementation for carbon sequestration. Current evaluations might be biased because the vast majority of studies are short-term laboratory incubations of biochars produced in laboratory-scale pyrolyzers. Here our objective was to investigate the stability of a biochar produced with a medium-scale pyrolyzer, first through laboratory characterization and stability tests and then through field experiment. We also aimed at relating properties of this medium-scale biochar to that of a laboratory-made biochar with the same feedstock. Biochars were made of Miscanthus biomass for isotopic C-tracing purposes and produced at temperatures between 600 and 700°C. The aromaticity and degree of condensation of aromatic rings of the medium-scale biochar was high, as was its resistance to chemical oxidation. In a 90-day laboratory incubation, cumulative mineralization was 0.1% for the medium-scale biochar vs. 45% for the Miscanthus feedstock, pointing to the absence of labile C pool in the biochar. These stability results were very close to those obtained for biochar produced at laboratory-scale, suggesting that upscaling from laboratory to medium-scale pyrolyzers had little effect on biochar stability. In the field, the medium-scale biochar applied at up to 25 t C ha-1 decomposed at an estimated 0.8% per year. In conclusion, our biochar scored high on stability indices in the laboratory and displayed a mean residence time > 100 years in the field, which is the threshold for permanent removal in C sequestration projects.
Project description:Biochar is being discussed as a soil amendment to improve soil fertility and mitigate climate change. While biochar interactions with soil microbial biota have been frequently studied, interactions with soil mesofauna are understudied. We here present an experiment in which we tested if the collembolan Folsomia candida I) can transport biochar particles, II) if yes, how far the particles are distributed within 10 days, and III) if it shows a preference among biochars made from different feedstocks, i.e. pine wood, pine bark and spelt husks. In general, biochar particles based on pine bark and pine wood were consistently distributed significantly more than those made of spelt husks, but all types were transported more than 4cm within 10 days. Additionally, we provide evidence that biochar particles can become readily attached to the cuticle of collembolans and hence be transported, potentially even over large distances. Our study shows that the soil mesofauna can indeed act as a vector for the transport of biochar particles and show clear preferences depending on the respective feedstock, which would need to be studied in more detail in the future.
Project description:Soil amendments like compost and biochar are known to affect soil properties, plant growth as well as soil borne plant pathogens. Complex interactions based on microbial activity and abiotic characteristics are supposed to be responsible for suppressive properties of certain substrates, however, the specific mechanisms of action are still widely unknown. In the present study, the main focus was on the development of the soil borne pathogen, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. lycopersici (Fol) in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) and changes in root exudates of tomato plants grown in different soil substrate compositions, such as compost (Comp) alone at application rate of 20% (v/v), and in combination with wood biochar (WB; made from beech wood chips) or green waste biochar (GWB; made from garden waste residues) at application rate of 3% (v/v), and/or with additional arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). The association of GWB and AMF had a positive effect on tomato plants growth unlike to the plants grown in WB containing a soil substrate. The AMF root colonization was not enhanced by the addition of WB or GWB in the soil substrate, though a bio-protective effect of mycorrhization was evident in both biochar amended treatments against Fol. Compost and biochars altered root exudates differently, which is evident from variable response of in vitro growth and development of Fol. The microconidia germination was highest in root exudates from plants grown in the soil containing compost and GWB, whereas root exudates of plants from a substrate containing WB suppressed the mycelial growth and development of Fol. In conclusion, the plant growth response and disease suppression in biochar containing substrates with additional AMF was affected by the feedstock type. Moreover, application of compost and biochars in the soil influence the quality and composition of root exudates with respect to their effects on soil-dwelling fungi.
Project description:Biochars result from the pyrolysis of biomass waste of plant and animal origin. The interest in these materials stems from their potential for improving soil quality due to increased microporosity, carbon pool, water retention, and their active capacity for metal adsorption from soil and irrigation water. Applications in agriculture have been studied under different conditions, but the overall results are still unclear. Char structure, which varies widely according to the pyrolysis process and the nature of feedstock, is thought to be a major factor in the interaction of chars with soil and their metal ion adsorption/chelation properties. Furthermore, biochar nutrients and their elemental content can modify soil fertility. Therefore, the use of biochars in agricultural settings should be examined carefully by conducting experimental trials. Three key problems encountered in the use of biochar involve (i) optimizing pyrolysis for biomass conversion into energy and biochar, (ii) physicochemically characterizing biochar, and (iii) identifying the best possible conditions for biochar use in soil improvement. To investigate these issues, two types of wood pellets, plus digestate and poultry litter, were separately converted into biochar using different technologies: pyrolysis/pyrogasification or catalytic (thermo)reforming. The following physicochemical features for the different biochar batches were measured: pH, conductivity, bulk density, humidity and ash content, particle size, total organic substances, and trace element concentrations. Fine porous structure analysis and total elemental analysis were performed using environmental scanning electron microscopy along with energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDX). Phytotoxicity tests were performed for each biochar. Finally, we were able to (i) differentiate the biochars according to their physicochemical properties, microstructure, elemental contents, and original raw biomass; (ii) correlate the whole biochar features with their respective optimal concentrations when used as plant fertilizers or soil improvers; and (iii) show that biochars from animal origin were phytotoxic at lower concentrations than those from plant feedstock.