Fyp Michael2 Essay

1768 words - 8 pages

The higher fertility of Terra preta soils originally attracted the attention of geographers, soil scientists and archaeologists, where in general tropical soils can be low in fertility (Glaser et al. 2003). The addition of char seems to be very effective and productive in humid tropical areas, where soils tend to be highly weathered and infertile. The major challenge of agriculture within these regions is the high rates of decomposition of soil organic matter (Zech et al. 1990). This is a consequence of temperatures and rates of precipitation. In undisturbed Venezuelan soil, the mean residence time of organic matter has been calculated at 4 years (Tiessen, Cuevas and Chacon 1994). Biochar is ...view middle of the document...

Plants benefit from the microbes associated with its rhizosphere in a variety of ways. These can include the acquisition of nutrients from soil, i.e. if the nutrient is too far from the root or if a nutrient exists in a form the plant cannot assimilate (Badri and Vivanco, 2009, Curl and Truelove, 1986; Bolton, Fredrickson and Elliot, 1992). Plants release many compounds, such as sugars, organic acids, aliphatic acids, sterols and various other secondary metabolites to attract beneficial microorganisms to form a mutually beneficial association (Badri and Vivanco, 2009, Curl and Truelove, 1986; Bolton, Fredrickson and Elliot, 1992). A key physical feature of most Biochars is their high porosity and correspondingly large surface area (Lehmann et al. 2011) which is making it a viable soil amendment to increase food productivity. It has been hypothesized that this may provide a habitat for mycorrhizae and bacteria, with the char itself relatively immune to microbial breakdown (Warnock et al.2007). Soil houses a large number of microorganisms (Fierer and Jackson, 2006). The char also impacts the sorption of important anions and cations. This may lead to a co-localization of resources, affecting microbial abundances (Lehman et al. 2011). It is thought that the char may provide a flush of nutrients to the soil microbial community (Lehmann et al. 2011). After this, the microbes which inhabit the pores of the char will rely on an indirect supply of Csubstrate. This may be due to the sorptive capabilities of the biochar, retaining soluble organic matter which would otherwise be leached to lower soil horizons rendering these valuable nutrients useable to crops. Water percolation in well-aggregated soil can be a rapid process in the humid tropics (Amazon), but nutrient leaching in Terra preta has been shown to be unexpectedly low due to nutrient retention (Lehmann et al. 2003).
1.2: Biochar production
The board diversity of biochar qualities across all potential production feedstock and pyrolysis conditions, results in a great variety of chemical, physical, and biological environmental goals achievable through the employment of biochars. Traditional charcoal production methods utilises carbon dioxide sequestered into a woody biomass tissue via the process of pyrolysis (‘conventional or slow pyrolysis’) (Atkinson et al. 2010). Pyrolysis occurs when tissue of biological origin is burnt (or charred) in the absence of, or at low levels of, oxygen to produce ‘biochar’ (Mohan et al. 2006; Preston and Schmidt 2006). Upon pyrolysis approximately 50% of the C contained in the original source of biomass can be retained within the biochar; however, recovery rates are highly dependent of the pyrolysis process (FAO 1985; Daud et al. 2001; Demirbas 2001; Baldock and Smernik 2002; Lehmann et al. 2002; Laird 2008). Methods of pyrolysis are characterised by the presence or absence of free-water, heating temperature, gas environment (i.e., if process is being flushed with...

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