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Biochar with near-neutral pH reduces ammonia volatilization and improves plant growth in a soil-plant system: A closed chamber experiment

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Article number134114
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>20/12/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Science of the Total Environment
Number of pages8
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Ammonia (NH3) volatilization is considered as one of the major mechanisms responsible for the loss of nitrogen (N) from soil-plant systems worldwide. This study investigated the effect of biochar amendment to a calcareous soil (pH 7.8) on NH3 volatilization and plant N uptake. In particular, the effect of biochar's feedstock and application rate on both NH3 volatilization and plant growth were quantified using a specially designed closed chamber system. Two well-characterized biochars prepared from poultry manure (PM-BC) and green waste compost (GW-BC) were applied to the soil (0, 0.5, 1, 1.5 and 2% w/w equivalent to 0, 7.5, 15, 22 and 30 t ha−1) and wheat (Triticum aestivum, variety: Calingiri) was grown for 30 days. Both PM-BC and GW-BC decreased NH3 volatilization to a similar degree (by 47 and 38%, respectively), in the soil-plant system compared to the unamended control. Higher plant biomass production of up to 70% was obtained in the closed chamber systems with the addition of biochar. The increase in plant biomass was due to the reduction in N loss as NH3 gas, thereby increasing the N supply to the plants. Plant N uptake was improved by as much as 58% with biochar addition when additional NPK nutrients were supplied to the soil. This study demonstrates that the application of biochars can mitigate NH3 emission from calcareous agricultural cropping soil and that the retained N is plant-available and can improve wheat biomass yield.