Quantitative differentiation between soil organic carbon and biochar carbon in Aridisol
N. Lara, L. Figueroa, F. Carvajal, Y. Zapata, C. Urbina, and H. Escobar. 2013. Quantitative differentiation between soil organic carbon and biochar carbon in Aridisol. Cien. Inv. Agr. 40(2): 387-395. To understand the effect of biochar, identify its presence and quantify its stability in soil, it is necessary to differentiate between the two main sources of carbon. These sources are resident soil organic matter and biochar, which is produced by burning organic matter under low oxygen concentration in a process known as pyrolysis. The present study employs solid-liquid extraction with an alkaline solution, the efficiency of which was improved by a reflux system and quantification using the modified Walkley-Black method, to distinguish the two carbon sources in samples of arid soils from the area surrounding the city of Arica, XV region of Chile. The mean annual precipitation of this area is less than 0.4 mm, and its soils are characterized by high salinity, low organic matter content, high porosity and low bulk density. The values for total extracted organic carbon obtained using this method were very similar to those for the resident soil organic carbon, indicating that the technique extracts mostly resident soil organic carbon and not biochar carbon. Biochar carbon represented less than 6% of the total organic carbon extracted by the method. The results demonstrate that this method can quantitatively differentiate between resident total organic carbon and applied biochar carbon. The method thus represents a valuable alternative to the use of an elemental analyzer.