Biochar is a recently coined term for charred organic matter used as a soil amendment. Although the term is relatively new, the substance has been used for a long time throughout the world, including Japan. After we read a Japanese book entitled Nibai Shukaku Tenri Nouhou (How to Double Crop Yield by Almighty Farming System) originally published in 1912, we found that there were conflicting opinions between the author (Mr. Katsugoro Oyaizu) and soil scientists of the time (Dr. Gintaro Daikuhara and others) on the benefits of the use of biochar fertilizer. Previous publications on this topic have been written in Japanese from a sociological viewpoint. By referring to the literature published at the beginning of the twentieth century in Japan, we attempt to shed light on the conflict between traditional knowledge of biochar fertilizer and new concepts of soil science imported from the Western countries. We also describe briefly the socioeconomic impacts on the use of biochar fertilizer in the later generations.
Part of the book: Organic Fertilizers
Sewage sludge is often heat-dried to eliminate water and pathogens. However, heat-drying can also change the form of nitrogen (N). To improve our understanding of this phenomenon, we examined the heat-induced changes in the rate of N mineralization from soils and organic wastes. Published results revealed that the response to the heating temperature differed between soils and organic wastes. As the heating temperature increased to 200°C, the rate of N mineralization increased in soils but decreased in organic wastes. In organic wastes such as sewage sludge, the content of mineralized N tended to decrease sharply when heating temperatures increased to 150–200°C. Furthermore, our results obtained from heat-drying of sewage sludge at 180°C indicated that the rate of carbon (C) mineralization decreased with increasing heating period after the sludge temperature reached 180°C. The C in sewage sludge heated at 180°C for 120 hours after complete drying contained more humin and aromatic C than that in sludge that was heat-dried at 180°C without the additional heating period. These results suggest that the heat-drying treatment can be divided into the drying and denaturing periods and that the temperature of the sludge, not that of the reactor, affects the quality of the end-product.
Part of the book: Nitrogen in Agriculture
In Japan, the area of low-input rice production is gradually increasing with a growing public interest in the quality and safety of our staple food. In an extreme case, rice has been grown over years without using any chemical fertilizers and agrochemicals. However, it is uncertain how much and how long such no-input farming can sustain rice yield and soil fertility. To better understand the sustainability of no-input rice farming in Japan, I briefly review previous results obtained from the long-term field experiments. The topics are (1) rice yield and soil fertility under no-input farming, (2) the environmental factors affecting rice growth and soil fertility under no-input farming, and (3) the dynamics of soil K under continuous rice cropping. The corresponding conclusions are as follows: (1) rice yield and soil fertility under no-input farming in Japan were influenced by various environmental and management factors operating at regional and field scales; (2) the input of K through irrigation and the high-clay content in soil were considered the key environmental factors that enable to sustain no-input farming; and (3) soil K depletion caused by long-term exhaustive cropping should be assessed by monitoring the decrease of soil nonexchangeable K rather than that of exchangeable K.
Part of the book: Sustainable Crop Production