photo: Stefano Mortellaro via flickr
Biochar proponents now have an additional benefit to tout, in addition to increasing crop yields and carbon storage of soil: According to a long-term study in Australia, biochar both reduces nitrous oxide emissions from soil by 73%, and reduces inorganic nitrogen runoff from fields by up to 94%. The study in the Journal of Environmental Quality, done by Bhupinder Pal Singh of Industry & Investment New South Wales and Balwant Singh from the University of Sydney, found that initially biochar produced inconsistent effects. Early on it appeared that biochar increased nitrous oxide emissions. However, after four months the effect was reversed, with aging of biochar in the soil cited as a possible reason for the switch from adverse to beneficial effects, in terms of emissions.
"The impacts of biochars on nitrous oxide emissions from soil are of interest because even small reductions in nitrous oxide emissions can considerably enhance the greenhouse mitigation value of biochar, which is already proven to be a highly stable carbon pool in the soil environment," according to senior author Bhupinder Pal Singh. "This research highlights that impacts of biochar on nitrogen transformations in soil may change over time and hence stresses the need for long-term studies to assess biochar's potential to reduce nitrogen losses from soil." (Science Daily)
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