Potential of Pyrolyzed Organic Matter in Soil Amelioration

Tom Miles

Potential of Pyrolyzed Organic Matter in Soil Amelioration
Bruno Glaser, Johannes Lehmann, Christoph Steiner, Thomas Nehls,
Muhammad Yousaf and Wolfgang Zech, 12th ISCO Conference Beijing 2002

To secure food supply for the increasing population there is an urgent need to intensify the agricultural production especially in less developed countries of the tropics. There, soils are frequently poor and not suitable for intensive sustainable agriculture because low organic matter contents and minerals with low cation exchange capacity favor nutrient leaching. Under such circumstances, mineral fertilizers such as NPK have shown to be of low value. Recent investigations gave evidence that carbonized materials from incomplete combustion of organic substances (pyrogenic carbon, Cpyr) are a key factor for maintaining high levels of soil organic matter in Chernozems of North America and Germany. Also anthropogenic soils of the Brazilian Amazon region (Terra Preta do Indio) contain high amounts of Cpyr. They contain high amounts of nutrients, whereas the surrounding Ferralsols and Acrisols are less fertile. In this paper we inform about the Cpyr contents in Chernozems and in Terra Preta soils, secondly we present some experimental results, carried out to test the hypothesis that pyrolyzed organic matter stabilizes inorganic nutrients such as N, P, and K via cation exchange and sorption and contributes in combination with inorganic fertilizers such as NPK and/or organic manure sustainably to plant production.

Keywords: Soil amelioration, pyrogenic carbon