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Algal biochar: effects and applications

TitleAlgal biochar: effects and applications
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsBird, Michael I., Wurster Christopher M., SILVA PEDRO DE PAULA H., PAUL NICHOLAS A., and de Nys Rocky
JournalGlobal Change Biology: Bioenergy
Date Published06/2011

Algae represent a promising target for the generation of bioenergy through slow pyrolysis, leading to the production of biochar. This study reports experiments conducted on the production of freshwater and saltwater macroalgal biochar in pilot-scale quantities, the physical and chemical characteristics of the biochars, and their impact on plant growth. The biochars are low in carbon (C) content, surface area and cation exchange capacity, while being high in ash and nutrients. Trace element analysis demonstrates that macroalgal biochar produced from unpolluted water does not contain toxic trace elements in excess of levels mandated for unrestricted use as a biosolids amendment to soils. Pot trials conducted using a C and nutrient-poor soil, without and with additional fertilizer, demonstrate dramatic increases between 15 and 32 times, respectively, in plant growth rate for biochar treatments compared with the no biochar controls, with additional smaller increases when fertilizer was added. Pot trials conducted using a relatively fertile agricultural soil showed smaller but significant impacts of biochar amendment over the controls.