Biochar can be used to recapture essential nutrients from dairy wastewater and improve soil quality

Ghezzehei, T. A. and Sarkhot, D. V. and Berhe, A. A.

Solid Earth, vol. 5(1), pp. 1101–1125 , 2014.


Recently, the potential for biochar use to recapture excess nutrients from dairy wastewater has been a focus of a growing number of studies. It is suggested that biochar produced from locally available excess biomass can be important in reducing release of excess nutrient elements from agricultural runoff, improving soil productivity, and long-term carbon (C) sequestration. Here we present a review of a new approach that is showing promise for the use of biochar for nutrient capture. Using batch sorption experiments, it has been shown that biochar can adsorb up to 20–43% of ammonium and 19–65% of the phosphate in flushed dairy manure in 24 h. These results suggest a potential of biochar for recovering essential nutrients from dairy wastewater and improving soil fertility if the enriched biochar is returned to soil. Based on the sorption capacity of 2.86 and 0.23 mg ammonium and phosphate, respectively, per gram of biochar and 10–50% utilization of available excess biomass, in the state of California (US) alone, 11 440 to 57 200 tonnes of ammonium-N and 920–4600 tonnes of phosphate can be captured from dairy waste each year while at the same time disposing up to 8–40 million tons of excess biomass.