About Us | Help Videos | Contact Us | Subscriptions

Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Special Section: Environmental Benefits of Biochar

Simple Biotoxicity Tests for Evaluation of Carbonaceous Soil Additives: Establishment and Reproducibility of Four Test Procedures


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 41 No. 4, p. 1023-1032
    Received: Mar 31, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): claudia.kammann@uni-giessen.de
Request Permissions

  1. Daniela Buschab,
  2. Claudia Kammann *ac,
  3. Ludger Grünhage and
  4. Christoph Müllerac
  1. a Dep. of Plant Ecology, Justus-Liebig Univ., Heinrich-Buff-Ring 26-32, D-35392,Giessen, Germany
    b Institute of Soil Biogeochemistry, Martin-Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, Von-Seckendorff-Platz 3, 06120 Halle (Saale), Germany
    c School of Biology and Environmental Sciences, Univ. College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland. Assigned to Associate Editor James Ippolito


Biochar derived from pyrolysis has received much attention recently as a soil additive to sequester carbon and increase soil fertility. Hydrochar, a brown, coal-like substance produced via hydrothermal carbonization, has also been suggested as a beneficial soil additive. However, before soil application, both types of char need to be tested for potential toxic effects. The aim of this study was to develop simple, inexpensive, and easy-to-apply test procedures to identify negative effects of chars but not to provide false-negative results. The following tests, based partly on ISO norm biotoxicity test procedures, were chosen: (i) cress germination test for gaseous phytotoxic emissions; (ii) barley germination and growth test; (iii) salad germination test; and (iv) earthworm avoidance test for toxic substances. Test reproducibility was ensured by carrying out each test procedure three times with the same biochar. Several modifications were necessary to adapt the tests for biochars/hydrochars. The tested biochar did not induce negative effects in any of the tests. In contrast, the beet-root chip hydrochar showed negative effects in all tests. In an extension to the regular procedure, a regrowth of the harvested barley shoots without further nutrient additions yielded positive results for the hydrochar, which initially had negative effects. This implies that the harmful substance(s) must have been degraded or they were water soluble and leached. Tests with a biochar and hydrochar showed that the proposed modified quick-check test procedures provide a fast assessment of risks and effects of char application to soils within a short period of time (<2 wk).

  Please view the pdf by using the Full Text (PDF) link under 'View' to the left.

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