Biochar phosphorus release is limited by high ph and excess calcium

Wolfram Buss*, Kamonchanard Assavavittayanon, Jessica G. Shepherd, Kate V. Heal, Saran Sohi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Aside from its use for improving soil properties, biochar is increasingly promoted as a direct nutrient provider for sustainable recycling of waste materials. However, incomplete understanding of the interacting factors that determine P release from biochar may limit the efficiency of P recycling from biochar to soil. In particular, the contrasting pH of biochar and soil need to be considered. In this study, soil-free biochar (rice [Oryza sativa L.] husk, 700?C) extractions were performed under different pH (4.6-9.9) and extractant conditions to test how solution composition affects biochar P release. When solution pH was in the range of 7.6 to 8.6 and excess Ca was present in the solution or in biochar, P release was low-only 1 to 7% of the total P was released compared with ?20% under most other conditions. Importantly, we demonstrate that biochar total Ca concentration is closely related to P availability (R2 = 0.76) and could be used to predict biochar P release. The results suggest that for maximum P release, low Ca concentrations in biochar and (soil) solution are needed and/or a pH <7.5 at the soil-biochar interface. This novel understanding will help engineer sustainable biochar fertilizers optimized for P provision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1298-1303
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018
Externally publishedYes


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