Changes in bulk and surface properties of two biochar types during 12 months of field ageing in two West-African soils
The study investigated the changes in properties of rice husk and corn cob biochars applied in urban agricultural field soils in Tamale (northern Ghana) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), respectively. The biochars were both pyrolyzed at 500 °C with a batch reactor. Fine polyethylene mesh (litter bags) filled with 10 g of each type of biochar were buried at 20 cm depth in urban fields trials with a 3 x 2 factorial layout replicated 4 times. Factor 1 involved soil management practices at 3 levels: (1) farmers’ practice (FP), (2) 20 t biochar ha-1 and (3) control (no biochar). The second factor was time (duration) at two levels (6 and 12 months). Aged and fresh biochars were analyzed for volatile matter (VM), ash and fixed carbon (FC) contents, pH, effective cation exchange capacity (ECEC), and total surface acidity (Sa) and basicity (Sb). Dissolved organic carbon contents were determined sequentially by cold (cDOC) and hot water extractions (hDOC), respectively and aromaticities of cold water DOC (cSUVA) and hot water DOC (hSUVA) were determined. There was no significant interaction effect of soil management practices and time on measured ageing biochar properties. Time significantly affected most biochar ageing properties except Sa and Sb in rice husk biochar and ECEC in corn cob biochars at 6 months of exposure. In both biochars, Ash content, Fixed carbon (FC), cDOC, hDOC, cSUVA and hSUVA increased whilst pH and volatile matter contents decreased significantly. The hDOC was 2-3 times higher than cDOC contents for both biochars. Aromaticity of DOC contents of aged rice husk biochar exposed to soil management practices and time in the experimental site in Tamale showed persistence with time compared to corn cob biochar exposed in Ouagadougou experimental site. The results imply that rainfall, soil organic matter contents with interplay of soil minerals are key drivers to ageing and sequestration of these biochars and that these forces act at different scales but driven by time.