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Soil, land care and environmental research
RESEARCH ARTICLE

An investigation into the reactions of biochar in soil

S. D. Joseph A K , M. Camps-Arbestain B , Y. Lin A , P. Munroe A , C. H. Chia A , J. Hook C , L. van Zwieten D , S. Kimber D , A. Cowie E , B. P. Singh F , J. Lehmann G , N. Foidl H , R. J. Smernik I and J. E. Amonette J
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Material Science and Engineering, University of NSW, Sydney 2052, Australia.

B New Zealand Biochar Research Centre, Private Bag 11222, Massey University, 4442 Palmerston North, New Zealand.

C NMR Facility, Analytical Centre, University of NSW, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

D Industry and Investment NSW, Wollongbar, NSW 2477, Australia.

E National Centre for Rural Greenhouse Gas Research, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

F Forest Science Centre, Industry and Investment NSW, PO Box 100, Beecroft, NSW 2119, Australia.

G Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.

H Venearth LLC, San Francisco, USA.

I School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, DP 636, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.

J Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA 99354, USA.

K Corresponding author. Email: joey.stephen@gmail.com

Australian Journal of Soil Research 48(7) 501-515 https://doi.org/10.1071/SR10009
Submitted: 5 January 2010  Accepted: 24 May 2010   Published: 28 September 2010

Abstract

Interactions between biochar, soil, microbes, and plant roots may occur within a short period of time after application to the soil. The extent, rates, and implications of these interactions, however, are far from understood. This review describes the properties of biochars and suggests possible reactions that may occur after the addition of biochars to soil. These include dissolution–precipitation, adsorption–desorption, acid–base, and redox reactions. Attention is given to reactions occurring within pores, and to interactions with roots, microorganisms, and soil fauna. Examination of biochars (from chicken litter, greenwaste, and paper mill sludges) weathered for 1 and 2 years in an Australian Ferrosol provides evidence for some of the mechanisms described in this review and offers an insight to reactions at a molecular scale. These interactions are biochar- and site-specific. Therefore, suitable experimental trials—combining biochar types and different pedoclimatic conditions—are needed to determine the extent to which these reactions influence the potential of biochar as a soil amendment and tool for carbon sequestration.

Additional keywords: surface charge, pyrolysis, redox, soil amendment, soil carbon, carbon sequestration, soil organic matter, biochar-soil mineral.


Acknowledgments

S.J. is very grateful for the support of VenEarth LLC and his colleagues at Anthroterra Pty. M.C.A. is very grateful for financial support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of New Zealand. We acknowledge Professor Felipe Macías, from the Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, for his assistance in producing Fig. 3. The authors also thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions.


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