Project

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Greenhouse gas emissions and crop yields from biochar-amended temperate agricultural soils

English title Greenhouse gas emissions and crop yields from biochar-amended temperate agricultural soils
Applicant Leifeld Jens
Number 140448
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Forschungsanstalt Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon ART
Institution of higher education Research Institutes Agroscope - AGS
Main discipline Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Start/End 01.09.2012 - 31.10.2015
Approved amount 189'972.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Discipline
Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences
Agricultural Engineering
Pedology

Keywords (6)

soil; nitrous oxide; lysimeter; agriculture; 15N; biochar

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

Biochar, a carbon-rich product that is manufactured by thermal decomposition of organic material under a limited oxygen supply (pyrolysis) has a long tradition as a soil amendment in tropical agriculture. More recently it has attracted interest because of a number of hypothesized positive environmental impacts including efficient soil carbon sequestration and improved crop yields. A relatively recent albeit frequent observation relates to lowering nitrous oxide and partially also carbon dioxide emissions from biochar-amended soil.

The current debate on environmental benefits and possible drawbacks of biochar application in agriculture is still based on weak ground regarding the duration of experiments and their representativeness regarding framework conditions such as climate, agronomy, or soils. Still many of these findings are based on artificial, lab-scale experiments.

In this project we will test the following hypotheses on how biochar may reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes, particularly N2O, and influence crop yields:

  • immobilization of mineral N reduces N availability for nitrifiers and denitrifiers
  • increased plant N uptake and crop yield reduce N availability for N2O production
  • increased soil pH leads to a systematic reduction in potential N2O emissions

The project is centered around two field experiments:

1 A lysimeter study with two different annual crops running over two years includes two soils with eight replicates each and will use biochar and double-labeled mineral fertilizer (15NH415NO3) to measure 15N2O and 15N in plants, soil, water, and biochar to determine biochar effects on N2O emissions, immobilization, plant uptake, and leaching. It will allow us to study if biochar changes mineral N availability and if this depends on soil type. Manual static chambers will be used for GHG measurements.

2 Biochar will be applied to an annual crop in the field on agricultural soil with pH 6.3 and GHG fluxes will be measured in comparison to a control and to plots limed to the same pH as the biochar plots. Automated chambers will be used for GHG measurement and arranged in a randomized block design. The experiment will allow to distinguish effects induced by biochar from those related to soil alkalinity alone. As the lysimeter study, it will also provide information on eventual changes in crop yield associated with biochar application.

In addition to GHG measurements biochar will be retrieved from soil samples during the experiment to study possible compositional changes and adsorption of labeled N.

The research will provide substantiated and quantitative understanding of important mechanisms involved in effects of biochar application on agricultural GHG emissions. It will evaluate whether results from lab-based experiments are applicable to field conditions. Most importantly it will help to decide whether biochar application is worth considering a GHG mitigation option in agriculture of temperate regions.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Name Institute

Publications

Publication
N use efficiencies and N2O emissions in two contrasting, biochar amended soils under winter wheat-cover crop-sorghum rotation
Huppi Roman, Neftel Albrecht, Lehmann Moritz F., Krauss Maike, Six Johan, Leifeld Jens (2016), N use efficiencies and N2O emissions in two contrasting, biochar amended soils under winter wheat-cover crop-sorghum rotation, in Environmental Research Letters, 11(8), 11.
Effect of biochar and liming on soil nitrous oxide emissions from a temperate maize cropping system
Hüppi R., Felber R., Neftel A., Six J., Leifeld J. (2015), Effect of biochar and liming on soil nitrous oxide emissions from a temperate maize cropping system, in SOIL, 1(2), 707-717.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Technische Universität München, Institut für Bodenkunde Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Delinat Institute, H.P. Schmidt Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Joint Biochar Symposium Talk given at a conference Biochar’s effect on soil nitrous oxide emissions from a maize field with lime-adjusted pH treatment 28.09.2015 Geisenheim, Germany Hüppi Roman;
EGU Poster Biochar's effect on soil nitrous oxide emissions from a maize field with lime adjusted pH treatment 12.04.2015 Wien, Austria Leifeld Jens; Hüppi Roman;
Aspsa Symposium Poster Biochar’s effect on soil nitrous oxide emissions from a maize field with lime adjusted pH control treatment 06.11.2014 Zurich, Switzerland Albrecht Neftel; Leifeld Jens; Hüppi Roman; Conen Franz;
EGU Poster Effects of biochar addition to soil on nitrogen fluxes in a winter wheat lysimeter experiment. 30.04.2014 Wien, Austria Conen Franz; Albrecht Neftel; Leifeld Jens; Hüppi Roman;
ASPSA Symposium Poster Greenhouse gas emissions and crop yields from biochar-amended temperate agricultural soils 19.12.2012 Tänikon, Switzerland Leifeld Jens; Hüppi Roman;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Other activities Pflanzenkohle: Möglicher Player im landwirtschaftlichen Klimaschutz? German-speaking Switzerland 2012

Awards

Title Year
EGU 2014: Outstanding Student Poster (OSP) Award 2014; Soil System Sciences The 2014 Outstanding Student Poster (OSP) Award is awarded to Roman Hüppi for the poster entitled: 'Effects of biochar addition to soil on nitrogen fluxes in a winter wheat lysimeter experiment' (Hüppi, R.; Leifeld, J.; Neftel, A.; Conen, F.; Six, J.). 2014

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
145287 The effect of biochar application on nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide emission from an agricultural soil with a long history of different management 01.09.2012 International short research visits

Abstract

Biochar, a carbon-rich product that is manufactured by thermal decomposition of organic material under a limited oxygen supply (pyrolysis) has a long tradition as a soil amendment in tropical agriculture. More recently it has attracted interest because of a number of hypothesized positive environmental impacts including efficient soil carbon sequestration and improved crop yields. A relatively recent albeit frequent observation relates to lowering nitrous oxide and partially also carbon dioxide emissions from biochar-amended soil. The current debate on environmental benefits and possible drawbacks of biochar application in agriculture is still based on weak ground regarding the duration of experiments and their representativeness regarding framework conditions such as climate, agronomy, or soils. Still many of these findings are based on artificial, lab-scale experiments. In this project we will test the following hypotheses on how biochar may reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes, particularly N2O, and influence crop yields:•immobilization of mineral N reduces N availability for nitrifiers and denitrifiers•increased plant N uptake and crop yield reduce N availability for N2O production•increased soil pH leads to a systematic reduction in potential N2O emissionsThe project is centered around two field experiments:1 A lysimeter study with two different annual crops running over two years includes two soils with eight replicates each and will use biochar and double-labeled mineral fertilizer (15NH415NO3) to measure 15N2O and 15N in plants, soil, and biochar to determine biochar effects on N2O emissions, immobi-lization, plant uptake, and leaching. It will allow us to study if biochar changes mineral N availability and if this depends on soil type. Manual static chambers will be used for GHG measurements. 2 Biochar will be applied to an annual crop in the field on agricultural soil with pH 6.3 and GHG fluxes will be measured in comparison to a control and to plots limed to the same pH as the biochar plots. Automated chambers will be used for GHG measurement and arranged in a randomized block design. The experiment will allow to distinguish effects induced by biochar from those related to soil alkalinity alone. As the lysimeter study, it will also provide information on eventual changes in crop yield associated with biochar application.Different biochars will be tested in the laboratory beforehand for their effect on N2O emissions to find the most effective one. Biochar, soil-biochar mixtures and harvest will be characterized using standard and advanced methods. The research will provide substantiated understanding of the mechanisms involved in effects of biochar application on GHG emissions in agricultural soil and quantification of effects. It will evaluate whether results from lab-based experiments are applicable to field conditions. Most importantly it will help to decide whether biochar application is worth considering a GHG mitigation option in agriculture of temperate regions.
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