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Applying biochar to soil: Is it worth the expense?. Jeff Novak, USDA-ARS-CPRC Northeast Biochar Symposium November 13, 2009. USDA-ARS GRACEnet program. United States Department of Agriculture. USDA. Outline:. Biochar reactions in soil (C and N cycles) Nutrients released from biochars

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applying biochar to soil is it worth the expense

Applying biochar to soil: Is it worth the expense?

Jeff Novak, USDA-ARS-CPRC

Northeast Biochar Symposium

November 13, 2009

USDA-ARS

GRACEnet

program

United States

Department of

Agriculture

USDA

outline
Outline:
  • Biochar reactions in soil (C and N cycles)
  • Nutrients released from biochars
  • Soil physical improvements after biochar addition
  • Biochar movement into soil
  • Biochar applications to soil

a. particle

b. pellets

  • Conclusions

Pecan biochar enmeshed in the

fabric of a Norfolk soil aggregate

biochar reactions in soils c cycle
Biochar reactions in soils: C cycle

CO2(g)

Biochar in soil

H2O

leaching

DOC

biochar reactions in soils n cycle
Biochar reactions in soils: N cycle

Drying and

removal from columns

Soil total N (%TN)

H2O

leaching

NO3-N

improvements in soil physical properties after adding biochar
Improvements in soil physical properties after adding biochar

Soil water holding capacity (WHC) determined by weight

1.2 PV of di. H20

added to surface

of each soil

Water leachate collected

over 30 hrs (covered to

minimize evaporative losses)

Water leachate weighted

for chemical analyses

and pots weighed daily

biochar movement into soils
Biochar movement into soils

Biochar added to

Ap horizon

Pecan shell biochar and Norfolk

(before mixing into soil)

Biochar also needed

in the E horizon

Pecan shell biochar and Norfolk

(after mixing into soil)

what we need to achieve is biochar in ap and e horizons
What we need to achieve is biochar in Ap and E horizons:
  • Biochar that can be surface applied, disked in, and then migrates through soil into subsurface hard layers.
  • We believe that biochar may assist in aggregate formation.

Norfolk Ap

Norfolk E (hard layer)

biochar leaching experiment
Biochar leaching experiment

Column packed

with Norfolk E

Column cut

in 1/2

Norfolk Ap/E

± biochar leached

with di. H2O

Dark bands are leached biochar

biochar applications to soil
Biochar applications to soil

Manure

feedstock

pelletizer

Pyrolyzer

Biochar applied to field

Raw Pellets

Pelletized biochar

(From Dynamotive)

conclusions
Conclusions
  • Biochar adds C and nutrients to soils, influences the soil N cycle (+/-);
  • Some biochars can act like a liming agent and increase a soils WHC;
  • Biochars can move into soils;
  • Biochar processing for field
  • application;
          • Is it worth it?

Just ask Jeff!