Changes in the bio-availability of phosphorus in pyrochars and hydrochars derived from sewage sludge after their amendment to soils

Marina Paneque, José María de la Rosa, Antonio F. Patti, Heike Knicker

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6 Citations (Scopus)


The expected shortage of global phosphate has enforced the search for alternative resources for P fertilizers. Therefore, the present study focuses on the turnover of phosphorus (P) of hydrochars and pyrochars derived from sewage sludge (SS) in soils during plant growth. We designed a pot experiment in which Lolium perenne L. was allowed to grow on a Calcic Cambisol amended with SS-derived chars. Hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) yielded the SS-hydrochars (200C, 260C; 30 min, 3 h), whereas the SS-pyrochars were obtained after dry pyrolysis (600C, 1 h). Increasing severity of HTC lowered the recovery of total P (PT) from the feedstock to 76%. The Olsen-P diminished from 4% PT in the untreated sludge to 1% PT in the hydrochars, whereas the pyrochars exhibited an Olsen-P between 3 and 6%. At the end of the pot experiment, the soils amended with pyrochars and with hydrochars produced at 200C contained more Olsen-P than the unamended soils, proving that P-rich chars can indeed serve as a P fertilizer. Part of the P sequestered in the chars turned into a mobile form during the experiment. After addition of our chars, the soil pH remained alkaline, allowing the conclusion that P could not have been solubilized through just abiotic processes. We suggest that biological and biochemical processes are involved in this mobilization. This work demonstrates that, in order to evaluate the efficiency of an organic amendment as a P fertilizer, the knowledge of their P availability alone is not sufficient and a better understanding of the biochemical processes involved in the cycling of its immobilized P is certainly required.

Original languageEnglish
Article number623
Number of pages13
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Biochar
  • Hydrothermal carbonization
  • Mobility
  • Organic phosphorus fertilizers
  • Pyrolysis
  • Waste valorization

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