Plant and Soil

, Volume 353, Issue 1–2, pp 73–84 | Cite as

A wood based low-temperature biochar captures NH3-N generated from ruminant urine-N, retaining its bioavailability

  • Arezoo Taghizadeh-Toosi
  • Tim J. Clough
  • Robert R. Sherlock
  • Leo M. Condron
Regular Article



Ammonia (NH3) can be volatilised from the soil surface following the surface application of nitrogenous fertilisers or ruminant urine deposition. The volatilisation of NH3 is of agronomic and environmental concern, since NH3-N is a form of reactive nitrogen. Ammonia adsorption onto biochar has the potential to mitigate NH3 losses, but to date no studies have examined the potential for reducing NH3 losses when biochar is present in the soil matrix.


We used 15N-enriched urine to examine the effect of incorporating a wood based low-temperature biochar into soil on NH3 volatilisation. Then, we extracted the urine-treated biochar and compared its potential to act as a plant N source with fresh biochar, while growing ryegrass (Lolium perenne).


The NH3 volatilisation from 15N-labelled ruminant urine, applied to soil, was reduced by 45% after incorporating either 15 or 30 t ha−1 of biochar. When the urine-treated biochar particles were transferred into fresh soil, subsequent plant growth was not affected but the uptake of 15N in plant tissues increased, indicating that the adsorbed-N was plant available.


Our results show that incorporating biochar into the soil can significantly decrease NH3 volatilisation from ruminant urine and that the NH3-N adsorbed onto the biochar is bioavailable. Further studies are now required to assess the temporal dynamics of the N pools involved.


15N stable isotope Ammonia Biochar Nitrogen Ryegrass Ruminant urine Volatilisation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arezoo Taghizadeh-Toosi
    • 1
  • Tim J. Clough
    • 1
  • Robert R. Sherlock
    • 1
  • Leo M. Condron
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Soil and Physical Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Life SciencesLincoln UniversityCanterburyNew Zealand
  2. 2.Bio-Protection Research CentreLincoln UniversityCanterburyNew Zealand

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