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Maize biochars accelerate short-term soil nitrogen dynamics in a loamy sand soil

Journal article
Authors V. Nelissen
Tobias Rütting
D. Huygens
J. Staelens
G. Ruysschaert
P. Boeckx
Published in Soil Biology & Biochemistry
Volume 55
Pages 20-27
ISSN 0038-0717
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 20-27
Language en
Keywords Biochar, N-15, Tracing model, Nitrogen, Immobilization, Mineralization, Gross transformation, microbial biomass, organic-matter, charcoal, n-15, transformations, mineralization, mechanisms, ecosystem
Subject categories Biological Sciences


Biochar addition to soils has been proposed as a means to increase soil fertility and carbon sequestration. However, its effect on soil nitrogen (N) cycling and N availability is poorly understood. To gain better insight into the short-term effects of biochar on gross N transformation processes, a N-15 tracing experiment in combination with numerical data analysis was conducted. An arable loamy sand soil was used and mixed with two silage maize biochars, produced at 350 degrees C and 550 degrees C. The results showed accelerated soil N cycling following biochar addition, with increased gross N mineralization (185-221%), nitrification (10-69%) and ammonium (NH4+) consumption rates (333-508%). Moreover, transfer of N from a recalcitrant soil organic N (N-rec) pool to a more labile soil organic N (N-lab) pool was observed. In the control treatment, 8% of the NH4+ mineralized from N-lab was immobilized to the N-rec pool. In contrast, 79% and 55% of the NH4+ mineralized from N-rec were immobilized to the N-rec pool in the treatment with biochar-350 degrees C and biochar-550 degrees C, respectively. NH4+-N was adsorbed quickly to biochar at the start of the experiment, thereby buffering plant-available N. In conclusion, these types of biochar accelerated soil N transformations in the short term, thereby increasing soil N bio-availability, through a combined effect of mineralization of the recalcitrant soil organic N pool and subsequent NH4+ immobilization in a labile soil organic N pool. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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