Interest in biochar stems from its potential agronomic benefits and carbon sequestration ability. Biochar application alters soil nitrogen (N) dynamics. This review establishes emerging trends and gaps in biochar-N research. Biochar adsorption of NO3−, up to 0.6 mg g−1
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Interest in biochar stems from its potential agronomic benefits and carbon sequestration ability. Biochar application alters soil nitrogen (N) dynamics. This review establishes emerging trends and gaps in biochar-N research. Biochar adsorption of NO3−
, up to 0.6 mg g−1
occurs at pyrolysis temperatures >600 °C with amounts adsorbed dependent on feedstock and NO3−
concentration. Biochar NH4+
adsorption depends on feedstock, but no pyrolysis temperature trend is apparent. Long-term practical effectiveness of inorganic-N adsorption, as a NO3−
leaching mitigation option, requires further study. Biochar adsorption of ammonia (NH3
) decreases NH3
losses during composting and after manure applications, and offers a mechanism for developing slow release fertilisers. Reductions in NH3
loss vary with N source and biochar characteristics. Manure derived biochars have a role as N fertilizers. Increasing pyrolysis temperatures, during biochar manufacture from manures and biosolids, results in biochars with decreasing hydrolysable organic N and increasing aromatic and heterocyclic structures. The short- and long-term implications of biochar on N immobilisation and mineralization are specific to individual soil-biochar combinations and further systematic studies are required to predict agronomic and N cycling responses. Most nitrous oxide (N2
O) studies measuring nitrous oxide (N2
O) were short-term in nature and found emission reductions, but long-term studies are lacking, as is mechanistic understanding of reductions. Stable N isotopes have a role in elucidating biochar-N-soil dynamics. There remains a dearth of information regarding effects of biochar and soil biota on N cycling. Biochar has potential within agroecosystems to be an N input, and a mitigation agent for environmentally detrimental N losses. Future research needs to systematically understand biochar-N interactions over the long term.