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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Groundwater Quality

Biochar Pyrolyzed at Two Temperatures Affects Escherichia coli Transport through a Sandy Soil


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 41 No. 1, p. 124-133
    Received: June 10, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): carl.bolster@ars.usda.gov
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  1. Carl H. Bolster *a and
  2. Sergio M. Abita
  1. a USDA–ARS, 230 Bennett Ln., Bowling Green, KY 42104. This research was part of USDA–ARS National Program 206: Manure and By-product Utilization. Mention of trade names or commercial products is solely for the description of experimental procedures and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the USDA. Assigned to Associate Editor Nathan Nelson


The incorporation of biochar into soils has been proposed as a means to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. An added environmental benefit is that biochar has also been shown to increase soil retention of nutrients, heavy metals, and pesticides. The goal of this study was to evaluate whether biochar amendments affect the transport of Escherichia coli through a water-saturated soil. We looked at the transport of three E. coli isolates through 10-cm columns packed with a fine sandy soil amended with 2 or 10% (w/w) poultry litter biochar pyrolyzed at 350 or 700°C. For all three isolates, mixing the high-temperature biochar at a rate of 2% into the soil had no impact on transport behavior. When added at a rate of 10%, a reduction of five orders of magnitude in the amount of E. coli transported through the soil was observed for two of the isolates, and a 60% reduction was observed for the third isolate. Mixing the low-temperature biochar into the soil resulted in enhanced transport through the soil for two of the isolates, whereas no significant differences in transport behavior were observed between the low-temperature and high-temperature biochar amendments for one isolate. Our results show that the addition of biochar can affect the retention and transport behavior of E. coli and that biochar application rate, biochar pyrolysis temperature, and bacterial surface characteristics were important factors determining the transport of E. coli through our test soil.

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Copyright © 2012. Copyright © by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Inc.