Chars intended for use as soil amendment (“biochars”) vary greatly in their chemical and physical properties. In the present study, 19 Canadian temperate wood feedstocks were charred across a range of pyrolysis temperatures from 300–700 °C. The resulting 95 biochars were tested for their physio-chemical properties and liming capacity. Data indicated increasing base cation concentrations including Ca, Mg, and K (elements that characteristically form liming compounds, i.e., carbonates) as pyrolysis temperature increased. Acidic surface functional groups were analyzed with modified Boehm titration: Carboxylic and lactonic functional group concentrations decreased and phenolic group concentration increased with pyrolysis temperature. Functional group composition also varied greatly with feedstock: In particular, conifer-derived biochars produced at pyrolysis temperatures <500 °C showed much higher carboxylic and lactonic functional group concentrations than did angiosperm-derived biochars. Liming capacity was assessed using soil incubation experiments and was positively related to biochar pH. Both acidic surface functional group concentration and nutrient element concentration influenced biochar pH: we developed a non-linear functional relationship that predicts biochar pH from the ratio of carboxylic to phenolic moieties, and concentrations of Ca and K. Biochar’s liming components that are inherited from feedstock and predictably modified by pyrolysis temperature provide a basis for optimizing the production of biochar with desired pH and liming characteristics.
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