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Biochar for the mitigation of nitrate leaching from soil amended with biosolids.

ABSTRACT

Countries with sewage treatment plants produce on average 27 kg of dried biosolids/person/yr. Concerns about nitrate leaching limit the rate at which biosolids are added to soil. We sought to determine whether biochar, a form of charcoal that is added to soil, could reduce nitrate leaching from biosolids amended soil. We set up 24 (0.5 m × 0.75 m) lysimeters, filled with two soil types (Templeton Silt Loam and Ashley Dene silt loam) and amended with combinations of biochar (102 t/ha equivalent) and biosolids (600 and 1200 kg N/ha equivalent). Pasture and leachates were sampled over 5 months. Nitrate leaching from biochar plus biosolids amended soils were reduced to levels at or below the control treatments. Pasture N concentrations were similarly affected by biochar addition. Future research should focus on unravelling the mechanism responsible for the change in the nitrogen cycle in soils amended with biosolids and biochar.