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Coconut husk biochar amendment enhances nutrient retention by suppressing nitrification in agricultural soil following anaerobic digestate application

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Aom Plaimart, Dr Kishor AcharyaORCiD, Dr Wojciech MrozikORCiD, Professor Russell DavenportORCiD, Professor David WernerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Anaerobic digestate and biochar are by-products of the biogasification and pyrolysis of agricultural wastes. This study tested the hypothesis that combined application of anaerobic pig/cattle manure digestate and coconut husk (CH) biochar can improve soil nutrient conditions, whilst minimizing atmospheric and groundwater pollution risks. Microcosms simulated digestate application to agricultural soil with and without CH biochar. Ammonia volatilization and nutrient leaching were quantified after simulated heavy rainfalls. Archaeal and bacterial community and abundance changes in soils were quantified via next generation sequencing and qPCR of 16S rRNA genes. Nitrifying bacteria were additionally quantified by qPCR of functional genes. It was found that CH biochar retarded nitrate leaching via slower nitrification in digestate-amended soil. CH biochar reduced both nitrifying archaea and bacteria abundance in soil by 71–83 percent in the top 4 cm soil layer and 66–80 percent in the deeper soil layer one month after the digestate application. Methanotroph abundances were similarly reduced in the CH biochar amended soils. These findings demonstrate combined benefits of anaerobic digestate and CH biochar application which are relevant for the development of a more circular rural economy with waste minimization, renewable energy production, nutrient recycling and reduced water pollution from agricultural land.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Plaimart J, Acharya K, Mrozik W, Davenport RJ, Vinitnantharat S, Werner D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Pollution

Year: 2020

Volume: 268

Issue: Part A

Print publication date: 01/01/2021

Online publication date: 18/09/2020

Acceptance date: 15/09/2020

Date deposited: 04/11/2020

ISSN (print): 0269-7491

ISSN (electronic): 1873-6424

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2020.115684


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Funder referenceFunder name
BB/P027709/1Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation of the Royal Thai Government