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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 66 No. 4, p. 1249-1255
    Received: July 31, 2000

    * Corresponding author(s): Jan.Skjemstad@csiro.au
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Charcoal Carbon in U.S. Agricultural Soils

  1. Jan O. Skjemstad *a,
  2. Donald C. Reicoskyb,
  3. Alan R. Wiltsb and
  4. Janine A. McGowana
  1. a CSIRO Land and Water and CRC for Greenhouse Accounting, Private Bag No. 2, Glen Osmond, SA, Australia 5064
    b USDA-ARS, North Central Soil Conservation Research Lab, 803 Iowa Ave., Morris, MN 56267


High levels of charcoal C resulting from repeated historical burning of grasslands, open woodlands, and agricultural crop residues have been reported in soils from Australia and Germany. In this study, five U.S. soils were selected from long-term research plots in widely different agricultural areas. The charcoal C content was estimated on each soil using a combination of physical separation, high energy photo-oxidation and solid-state 13C nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. These analyses showed that all five soils contained measurable amounts of charcoal C, <53 μm in size and ranging from 1.8 to 13.6 g C kg−1 soil and constituted up to 35% of the soil total organic C (TOC). Scanning electron microscopy showed that the charcoal material had a plant-like morphology but were blocky and had fractured edges. These particles were similar in morphology to those separated from Australian and German soils. The implications of this material, which must be highly resistant to microbiological decomposition, to the soil C cycle are discussed.

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Copyright © 2002. Soil Science SocietyPublished in Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J.66:1249–1255.