University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Biochar Incorporation Increased Nitrogen and Carbon Detention in a Waste-derived Soil

Schofield, H.K., Pettitt, Timothy, Tappin, A., Rollinson, G.K. and Fitzsimons, M.F. (2019) Biochar Incorporation Increased Nitrogen and Carbon Detention in a Waste-derived Soil. Science of the Total Environment, 690 (10). pp. 1228-1236. ISSN Print: 0048-9697 Online: 1879-1026

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The synthesis of manufactured soils converts waste materials to value-added products, alleviating pressures on both waste disposal infrastructure and topsoils. For manufactured soils to be effective media for plant growth, they must retain and store plant-available nutrients, including nitrogen. In this study, biochar applications were tested for their ability to retain nitrogen in a soil manufactured from waste materials. A biochar, produced from horticultural green waste, was added to a manufactured soil at 2, 5 and 10 % (by weight), then maintained at 15 °C and irrigated with water (0.84 mL m–2 d–1 ) over 6 weeks. Total dissolved nitrogen concentrations in soil leachate decreased by 25.2, 30.6 and 44.0 % at biochar concentrations of 2, 5 and 10 %, respectively. Biochar also changed the proportions of each nitrogen-fraction in collected samples. Three mechanisms for biochar-induced nitrogen retention were possible: i) increased cation and anion exchange capacity of the substrate; ii) retention of molecules within the biochar pore spaces; iii) immobilisation of nitrogen through microbial utilisation of labile carbon further supported by increased soil moisture content, surface area, and pH. Dissolved organic carbon concentrations in leachate were reduced (−34.7 %, −28.9 %, and −16.7 %) in the substrate with 2, 5 and 10 % biochar additions, respectively. Fluorescein diacetate hydrolysis data showed increased microbial metabolic activity with biochar application (14.7 ± 0.5, 25.4 ± 5.3, 27.0 ± 0.1, 46.1 ± 6.1 µg FL g–1 h–1 for applications at 0, 2, 5, and 10 %, respectively), linking biochar addition to enhanced microbial activity. These data highlight the potential for biochar to suppress the long-term turnover of SOM and promote carbon sequestration, and a long-term sustainable growth substrate provided by the reuse of waste materials diverted from landfill.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: waste materials, sustainability, biochar, manufactured soil, nitrogen, carbon
Divisions: College of Health, Life and Environmental Sciences > School of Science and the Environment
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Timothy Pettitt
Date Deposited: 13 Sep 2019 15:09
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2020 17:09

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