Next Article in Journal / Special Issue
Characterization and Mineralization Rates of Low Temperature Peanut Hull and Pine Chip Biochars
Previous Article in Journal / Special Issue
Biochar Effect on Maize Yield and Soil Characteristics in Five Conservation Farming Sites in Zambia
Agronomy 2013, 3(2), 275-293; doi:10.3390/agronomy3020275

A Review of Biochar and Soil Nitrogen Dynamics

1,* , 1,2
1 Department of Soil and Physical Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Lincoln University, Lincoln 7647, New Zealand 2 Bio-Protection Research Centre, PO Box 84, Lincoln University, Lincoln 7647, Christchurch, New Zealand 3 Department of Plant Ecology, Heinrich-Buff-Ring 26-32 (IFZ), University Gießen, Germany 4 School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 February 2013 / Revised: 8 April 2013 / Accepted: 8 April 2013 / Published: 16 April 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biochar as Option for Sustainable Resource Management)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [219 KB, uploaded 16 April 2013]


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 biochar, 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 and NO3 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 (N2O) studies measuring nitrous oxide (N2O) 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.
Keywords: biochar; immobilization; mineralization; nitrate leaching; nitrogen; nitrous oxide; ammonia volatilisation biochar; immobilization; mineralization; nitrate leaching; nitrogen; nitrous oxide; ammonia volatilisation
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Share & Cite This Article

Further Mendeley | CiteULike
Export to BibTeX |
MDPI and ACS Style

Clough, T.J.; Condron, L.M.; Kammann, C.; Müller, C. A Review of Biochar and Soil Nitrogen Dynamics. Agronomy 2013, 3, 275-293.

View more citation formats

Article Metrics

For more information on the journal, click here


Cited By

[Return to top]
Agronomy EISSN 2073-4395 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert