Biochar and Antibiotics in Soil

Can Biochar Help Manage the Fate of Veterinary Antibiotics in Livestock Farming?

Biochar and Antibiotics
Fate of veterinary antibiotics used in livestock industry

In a recent review article by Tasho and Cho (2016) on the fate of veterinary antibiotics in livestock farming, it was noted that these chemicals are relatively persistence in the environment.  Limiting the movement of these biosolids in the environment can be a challenge because of the varying physiological interactions.  Electron irradiation and supervised inoculation of beneficial microorganisms have been proposed as effective remediation strategies.

Biochar and Antibiotics

Mitchell et al. (2015) reviewed biochar as a strategy to sequester antibiotic residues in the environment.  Twenty-seven different biochars found that matrial prepared at higher pyrolysis temperatures (>500˚C) absorbed the antibiotics with greater efficiency compared with lower preparation temperatures.

Overall, pinewood biochar, and potentially other feedstocks, are excellent candidates for sequestering antibiotic residues in soil-urine-feces environments.

Biochar has also been shown to improve other intensive livestock management environmental challenges:

  • reduced ammonia losses by 38% over 3 weeks
  • 2% biochar mixed with manure/soil mixtures (0.5%) decreased total amount of nitrogen (10% decrease) and phosphorus (70% decrease).
  • Sorption capacity experiments indicated 5.3mg ammonium/g (18% of manure slurry) and 0.24% mg phosphate/g (50% of manure slurry) was achieved. During desorption, 80-90% of sorbed ammonium and 60% of sorbed phosphate was retained.
  • Biochar has been shown to reduce total nitrogen by 52%.

If this article has been useful, please share and like. If you have any questions or would like additional information on using biochar in solving environmental challenges, email me at 720.840.4703.


Mitchell, S. M., M. Subbiah, J. L. Ullman, C. Frear, and D. R. Call, 2015, Evaluation of 27 different biochars for potential sequestration of antibiotic residues in food animal production environments: Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering, v. 3, p. 162-169.

Tasho, R. P., and J. Y. Cho, 2016, Veterinary antibiotics in animal waste, its distribution in soil and uptake by plants: A review: Science of The Total Environment, v. 563–564, p. 366-376.

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