Germination tests for assessing biochar quality

N. Rogovska, D. Laird, R. M. Cruse, S. Trabue, E. Heaton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Defi nition, analysis, and certifi cation of biochar quality are crucial to the agronomic acceptance of biochar. While most biochars have a positive impact on plant growth, some may have adverse eff ects due to the presence of phytotoxic compounds. Conversely, some biochars may have the ability to adsorb and neutralize natural phytotoxic compounds found in soil. We evaluated the eff ects of biochars on seedling growth and absorption of allelochemicals present in corn (Zea mays L.) residues. Corn seeds were germinated in aqueous extracts of six biochars produced from varied feedstocks, thermochemical processes, and temperatures. Percent germination and shoot and radicle lengths were evaluated at the end of the germination period. Extracts from the six biochars had no eff ect on percent germination; however, extracts from three biochars produced at high conversion temperatures signifi cantly inhibited shoot growth by an average of 16% relative to deionized (DI) water. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons detected in the aqueous extracts are believed to be at least partly responsible for the reduction in seedling growth. Repeated leaching of biochars before extract preparation eliminated the negative eff ects on seedling growth. Biochars diff er signifi cantly in their capacity to adsorb allelochemicals present in corn residues. Germination of corn seeds in extracts of corn residue showed 94% suppression of radicle growth compared to those exposed to DI water; however, incubation of corn residue extracts with leached biochar for 24 h before initiating the germination test increased radicle length 6 to 12 times compared to the corn residue extract treatments. Germination tests appear to be a reliable procedure to diff erentiate between eff ects of diff erent types of biochar on corn seedling growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1014-1022
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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