Reduction of fertiliser losses in agriculture

Hafey, Matthew (2016) Reduction of fertiliser losses in agriculture. [USQ Project]

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Fertiliser losses in agriculture constitute a global economic and environmental issue. Nutrient runoff readily pollutes watercourses and causes eutrophication, damaging riverine and coastal ecosystems. Leaching of nutrients ensures groundwater is also impacted, and that fertiliser thought to have been taken up by plants is lost forever. Flow-on economic effects of this environmental damage are often considerable, necessitating the need to reduce fertiliser losses. Sugarcane in particular, is grown in areas which receive high rainfall, and soils that require large fertiliser loads. A possible means of reducing fertiliser losses is biochar, a carbon product produced through pyrolysis which may be used as both a soil amendment and carbon sink.

Field trials have shown that the use of biochar – even with reduced fertiliser application – can actually increase the yield of sugarcane crops. This investigation aimed to investigate the merits of biochar through similar tests conducted on a laboratory scale with a focus on reducing nutrient losses rather than increasing yield. Through accelerated leaching column tests using commonly used urea fertiliser, it was determined that the addition of biochar in a subsurface layer would provide significant nutrient retention benefits. Biochar is hardly an instant solution however, with current prices all but eliminating it from consideration. This investigation has uncovered numerous avenues of further research which must be explored before biochar can become a viable mainstream soil amendment product.

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Item Type: USQ Project
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) Major Environmental Engineering project
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Civil Engineering and Surveying (1 Jul 2013 - 31 Dec 2021)
Supervisors: Banhazi, Thomas
Date Deposited: 20 Jul 2017 04:19
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2017 04:19
Uncontrolled Keywords: fertiliser losses; agriculture; pyrolysis; field trials; environmental issue
Fields of Research (2008): 09 Engineering > 0907 Environmental Engineering > 090799 Environmental Engineering not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (2020): 40 ENGINEERING > 4011 Environmental engineering > 401199 Environmental engineering not elsewhere classified

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