Microbiologists Johannes Harter and Jans-Martin Krause and team, explored whether adding biochar to the soil will allow farmers to reduce the amount of needed nitrogen fertilizer, and to cut down the emitted nitrous oxide.
It turns out, it does. Let’s see how. During the process of pyrolysis, when thermochemical decomposition of organic matter takes place, the material, known as biochar, is produced. If added to the soil, it has the ability to prevent removal of nutrients by increasing soil water storage capacity, and hence soil fertility.
The authors point out that this also boosts microbial activity. The abundance and composition of microorganisms determine the formation of biological communities, and therefore defines the way biodiversity is sustained and protected. In addition, the unique surface properties of biochar allow storage of carbon.
In the light of heated discussions after the latest IPCC report, any technique, which could reduce the release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, should receive the needed attention. This study provides just that.
By introducing biochar to the soil surface, the authors demonstrate that the use of nitrogen fertilizer can be made sustainable. In this sense, the findings help not only the agricultural industry but they outline a new strategy for controlling emissions and improving soil management and protection.