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Department of Forest Ecology and Soils
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Biochar for carbon capture in soils

Biochar production is based on the pyrolysis of biomass (for example from agricultural waste material or forest wood chippings.) It is seen as a potential method for long-term soil carbon storage, for soil improvement, for increasing plant growth and for minimizing the emission of climate-relevant greenhouse gases from the soil. Within the framework of the Biochar-project (KLIEN-fund development scheme "Neue Energien 2020") the potential advantages and disadvantages will be scientifically verified. In experimental research ranging from laboratory to field scale, the production, stability, environmental effects and efficiency of biochar will be examined.

Optimization of Technology

Five working groups, from three non-university research centers (AIT, BFW, Joanneum), the University of Life Sciences and Natural Resources, and two local agricultural associations are cooperating on the project. Based on literature research, experimental studies are planned in order to optimize existing technology or to develop innovations for production and application. Issues around the impact of the biomass-material and the pyrolysis-conditions will be investigated in the first year, using a pyrolysis oven. Nutrient availability, absorption characteristics in the soil, soil microorganisms and green house gas fluxes will be analyzed later in Lysimeter experiments. In the second year, field experiments to determine the long-term behavior and carbon storage potential of biochar in agricultural soils will begin.

Reduction of green house gases

The BFW is conducting measurements in the laboratory and in the field, to quantify the biochar-output on greenhouse gas production. First results show that soil respiration (CO2) can be reduced by up to 50% on agricultural soils, and the emission of the 300 times more potent greenhouse gas N2O can be reduced by up to 80%.

It is hoped that biochar can lead to the long-term storage of carbon in soils.

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