Use of pyrolysis char as an amendment in soils of the Southeastern United States
Speir, Robert Adam
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Pyrolysis is an energy production process involving the thermal decomposition of biomass in the absence of oxygen. Char, a byproduct of the pyrolysis process, has been suggested as a beneficial soil amendment. Instances of charcoal discovered in otherwise infertile soils have shown soil fertility improvements in highly weathered soils through an increase in cation exchange capacity (CEC), pH, and availability of nutrients such as N, P, Ca, and K. Several studies were conducted to determine if char from pyrolysis, produced at 400°C with steam from peanut hull and pine chip feedstocks, would provide similar benefits by improving plant growth, nutrient availability, soil moisture retention, and carbon sequestration. Overall, results show that char from peanut hull and pine chip feedstocks increase available nutrients, although this increase did not lead to significant increases in plant growth or yield. Amendment of pyrolysis char also increased soil moisture during dry greenhouse conditions. Studies of soil respiration and carbon mineralization indicate pyrolysis char resists decomposition and is stable in the soil profile.