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Agronomy 2013, 3(2), 294-312; doi:10.3390/agronomy3020294

Characterization and Mineralization Rates of Low Temperature Peanut Hull and Pine Chip Biochars

1,* , 1
1 The University of Georgia, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Miller Plant Sciences, Athens, GA 30602, USA 2 The University of Georgia, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Driftmier Engineering Center, Athens, GA 30602, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 November 2012 / Revised: 23 January 2013 / Accepted: 7 April 2013 / Published: 16 April 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biochar as Option for Sustainable Resource Management)
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Biochar can potentially increase soil fertility and sequester carbon by incorporating nutrients and stable black carbon into the soil; however its effect on soil nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) processes is not well understood. A defined methodology to characterize biochar is necessary to predict how specific biochars will affect C and N mineralization. We amended a Tifton soil (Fine-loamy, siliceous, thermic Plinthic Kandiudults) with peanut hull (Arachis hypogaea; PH; 2.1% N) and pine chip (Pinus taeda; PC: 0.4% N) biochar at application rates of 1% and 2% (w/w) and performed a 136-day mineralization study. A companion 24-day mineralization study amended Tifton soil with PH and PC biochar at 2% and their respective feedstocks at equal C rates. Soil C mineralization rates were monitored periodically throughout each study and total N mineralization rates were also measured. In addition, we characterized each biochar using thermogravimetric analysis with mass spectrometer (TGA-MS), proximate analysis, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and total mineral analysis to identify biochar characteristics that might correlate with mineralization properties. Limited C (<2%) mineralized from both biochars, but mineralization rates of soil amended with PH biochar were higher than PC biochar. Carbon mineralization correlated well with estimated aliphatic content determined by TGA-MS but not with volatile content indicated by proximate analysis. Nitrogen was not mineralized from either biochar, indicating that plant-based biochar should not be considered a source of N for plant growth. The N in biochar may be contained in the stable aromatic structure of the biochar, as indicated by TGA-MS, and not available to soil microbes.
Keywords: biochar; soil; mineralization; characterization; carbon; nitrogen biochar; soil; mineralization; characterization; carbon; nitrogen
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Harris, K.; Gaskin, J.; Cabrera, M.; Miller, W.; Das, K. Characterization and Mineralization Rates of Low Temperature Peanut Hull and Pine Chip Biochars. Agronomy 2013, 3, 294-312.

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