Negative priming of native soil organic carbon mineralization by oilseed biochars of contrasting quality

Francischinelli Rittl, T.; Novotny, E.H.; Baliero, F.C.; Hoffland, E.; Alves, B.J.R.; Kuijper, T.W.M.


Oilseed-derived biochar, a by-product of pyrolysis for biodiesel production, is richer in aliphatic compounds than the commonly studied wood-derived biochar, affecting both its mineralization in soil and its interaction with native soil organic carbon (nSOC). Here, we investigated the soil C sequestration potential of three different oilseed biochars derived from C3 plant material: soyabean, castor bean and jatropha cake. The chemical composition of these biochars was determined by elemental analysis (CHN) and 13C NMR spectroscopy. The cumulative CO2 efflux from 30-day laboratory incubations of biochar mixed with a sandy soil containing nSOC from C4 plants was measured as a proxy for mineralization rate. The relative contribution of each source to CO2 production was calculated based on the 13C-signatures of total CO2 efflux and the source materials (soil and biochars). Our results showed that: (i) castor bean biochar contained relatively large amounts of aliphatic compounds, resulting in a greater mineralization rate than soyabean and jatropha biochars; (ii) CO2 efflux from the soil-biochar mixtures originated mostly from the biochars, suggesting that these biochars contain rapidly decomposable compounds; and (iii) all three oilseed biochars decelerated nSOC mineralization. This negative priming effect appeared to be caused by different factors. We conclude that oilseed biochars have the potential to increase soil C stocks directly and increase soil C sequestration indirectly in the short term through negative priming of nSOC mineralization.