Bone char vs. S-enriched bone char: Multi-method characterization of bone chars and their transformation in soil
To decrease environmental impacts from usage of mineral P fertilizers based on rock phosphate, alternative P fertilizers are urgently necessary but have to be critically evaluated for their characteristics and behaviour or effects in soil. For this reason, bone char (BC) and S-enriched BC (BCplus), original and after one vegetation period in soil, were analysed by wet chemical analyses and XANES spectroscopy. According to X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) spectroscopy, both chars were dominated by P bound in hydroxyapatite, which was well reflected by wet chemical P fractionation, where Ca-P was the dominant fraction. Sulfur fractionation of both chars confirmed low percentages of sulfate-S according to XANES analysis but failed to detect elemental S in BCplus. Because S concentrations in BCplus were comparable to that of activated carbon used for biogas desulfurization and sorbed S was dominantly elemental S, BC seems to be well suited for biogas desulfurization. After one year in soil the disappearance of more easily soluble Ca(H2PO4)·2H2O and strongly reduced proportions of sulfates and sulfonates in soil-BCplus compared to BCplus pointed to considerable advantages of BCplus over BC. Taking into consideration the acidic pH of BCplus, the high Ca, P, and S concentrations and the expected microbial induced “in situ digestion” of BC by oxidation of elemental S, it can be concluded that a cascade usage of BC as biogas adsorber and following subsequent usage of BCplus as S/P/Ca/Mg (multi-element) fertilizer could be an alternative to mineral fertilizers based on rock phosphate. The agronomic efficiency and detailed application guidelines must be derived from established and currently running longer-term plot and field experiments.