Effect of Soil pH Increase by Biochar on NO, N2O and N2 Production during Denitrification in Acid Soils
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Biochar (BC) application to soil suppresses emission of nitrous- (N2O) and nitric oxide (NO), but the mechanisms are unclear. One of the most prominent features of BC is its alkalizing effect in soils, which may affect denitrification and its product stoichiometry directly or indirectly. We conducted laboratory experiments with anoxic slurries of acid Acrisols from Indonesia and Zambia and two contrasting BCs produced locally from rice husk and cacao shell. Dose-dependent responses of denitrification and gaseous products (NO, N2O andN2) were assessed by high-resolution gas kinetics and related to the alkalizing effect of the BCs. To delineate the pH effect from other BC effects, we removed part of the alkalinity by leaching the BCs with water and acid prior to incubation. Uncharred cacao shell and sodium hydroxide (NaOH) were also included in the study. The untreated BCs suppressed N2O and NO and increased N2 production during denitrification, irrespective of the effect on denitrification rate. The extent of N2O and NO suppression was dose-dependent and increased with the alkalizing effect of the two BC types, which was strongest for cacao shell BC. Acid leaching of BC, which decreased its alkalizing effect, reduced or eliminated the ability of BC to suppress N2O and NO net production. Just like untreated BCs, NaOH reduced net production of N2O and NO while increasing that of N2. This confirms the importance of altered soil pH for denitrification product stoichiometry. Addition of uncharred cacao shell stimulated denitrification strongly due to availability of labile carbon but only minor effects on the product stoichiometry of denitrification were found, in accordance with its modest effect on soil pH. Our study indicates that stimulation of denitrification was mainly due to increases in labile carbon whereas change in product stoichiometry was mainly due to a change in soil pH.