Biochar from commercially cultivated seaweed for soil amelioration
Roberts, DA, Paul, NA, Dworjanyn, SA, Bird, MI & de Nys, R 2015, 'Biochar from commercially cultivated seaweed for soil amelioration', Scientific Reports, vol. 5, no. 9665.
Seaweed cultivation is a high growth industry that is primarily targeted at human food and hydrocolloid markets. However, seaweed biomass also offers a feedstock for the production of nutrient-rich biochar for soil amelioration. We provide the first data of biochar yield and characteristics from intensively cultivated seaweeds (Saccharina, Undaria and Sargassum – brown seaweeds, and Gracilaria, Kappaphycus and Eucheuma – red seaweeds). While there is some variability in biochar properties as a function of the origin of seaweed, there are several defining and consistent characteristics of seaweed biochar, in particular a relatively low C content and surface area but high yield, essential trace elements (N, P and K) and exchangeable cations (particularly K). The pH of seaweed biochar ranges from neutral (7) to alkaline (11), allowing for broad-spectrum applications in diverse soil types. We find that seaweed biochar is a unique material for soil amelioration that is consistently different to biochar derived from ligno-cellulosic feedstock. Blending of seaweed and ligno-cellulosic biochar could provide a soil ameliorant that combines a high fixed C content with a mineral-rich substrate to enhance crop productivity.