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Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 6; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010006

Biochar for Horticultural Rooting Media Improvement: Evaluation of Biochar from Gasification and Slow Pyrolysis

1
Wageningen Plant Research, Glasshouse Horticulture, Violierenweg 1, 2665 MV Bleiswijk, The Netherlands
2
Wageningen Environmental Research, Wageningen University & Research, Droevendaalsesteeg 3, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands
3
Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), P.O. Box 1, 1755 ZG Petten, The Netherlands
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Marcus Hardie and Peter Langridge
Received: 19 October 2016 / Revised: 25 November 2016 / Accepted: 19 December 2016 / Published: 7 January 2017
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Abstract

Peat is used as rooting medium in greenhouse horticulture. Biochar is a sustainable alternative for the use of peat, which will reduce peat derived carbon dioxide emissions. Biochar in potting soil mixtures allegedly increases water storage, nutrient supply, microbial life and disease suppression but this depends on feedstock and the production process. The aim of this paper is to find combinations of feedstock and production circumstances which will deliver biochars with value for the horticultural end user. Low-temperature (600 °C–750 °C) gasification was used for combined energy and biochar generation. Biochars produced were screened in laboratory tests and selected biochars were used in plant experiments. Tests included dry bulk density, total pore space, specific surface area, phytotoxicity, pH, EC, moisture characteristics and microbial stability. We conclude that biochars from nutrient-rich feedstocks are too saline and too alkaline to be applied in horticultural rooting media. Biochars from less nutrient-rich feedstocks can be conveniently neutralized by mixing with acid peat. The influence of production parameters on specific surface area, pH, total pore space and toxicity is discussed. Biochar mildly improved the survival of beneficial micro-organisms in a mix with peat. Overall, wood biochar can replace at least 20% v/v of peat in potting soils without affecting plant growth. View Full-Text
Keywords: alkalinity; biochar; gasification; pH; phytotoxicity; pyrolysis; salinity; stability; degradability alkalinity; biochar; gasification; pH; phytotoxicity; pyrolysis; salinity; stability; degradability
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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. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Blok, C.; van der Salm, C.; Hofland-Zijlstra, J.; Streminska, M.; Eveleens, B.; Regelink, I.; Fryda, L.; Visser, R. Biochar for Horticultural Rooting Media Improvement: Evaluation of Biochar from Gasification and Slow Pyrolysis. Agronomy 2017, 7, 6.

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