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Effect of Pine Waste and Pine Biochar on Nitrogen Mobility in Biosolids

Abstract

Humanity produces ∼27 kg of dry matter in biosolids per person per year. Land application of biosolids can improve crop production and remediate soils but may result in excessive nitrate N (NO3−–N) leaching. Carbonaceous materials can reduce the environmental impact of biosolids application. We aimed to ascertain and compare the potentials for Monterey pine (Pinus radiata D. Don)-sawdust-derived biochars and raw sawdust to reduce NO3−–N leaching from biosolids. We used batch sorption experiments 1:10 ratio of material to solution (100 mg kg−1 of NH4+ or NO3−) and column leaching experiments with columns containing biosolids (2.7% total N, 130 mg kg−1 NH4+ and 1350 mg kg−1 NO3−) mixed with soil, biochar, or sawdust. One type of low-temperature (350°C) biochar sorbed 335 mg kg−1 NH4+, while the other biochars and sawdust sorbed <200 mg kg−1 NH4+. None of the materials sorbed NO3−. Biochar added at rates of 20 to 50% reduced NH4+–N (<1% of total N) leaching from columns by 40 to 80%. Nitrate leaching (<7% of total N) varied little with biochar form or rate but was reduced by sawdust. Incorporating dried sawdust with biosolids showed promise for mitigating NO3−–N leaching. This effect likely is due to sorption into the pores of the biochar combined with denitrification and immobilization of N rather than chemical sorption onto surfaces.

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