Terra preta is a fertile anthropogenic soil found in the Amazon basin. One of the most significant differences between the terra preta and surrounding soils is that terra preta is rich in aromatic carbons. Previous infrared investigations of terra preta were reported at energies above 1000 cm−1 where many other forms of carbon also have absorption lines. No measurements have been reported below 800 cm−1, where many absorptions associated with aromatic carbons occur in the absence of aliphatic carbon lines. We employ Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy between 150 cm−1 and 500 cm−1. A comparison was made between the spectra of terra preta, several pure aromatic compounds, organic fertilizers developed to replicate terra preta and several Australian soils, some of which containing char from bushfires. The spectra in the 150–500 cm−1 range were very similar between terra preta and the organic fertilizers, while they were very different for the natural soils. These findings indicate that the content of aromatic carbons in terra preta and organic fertilizers is different than in natural soils containing the bushfire chars, but also soils produced entirely by bacterial and fungal activities. This point to the importance of the preparation conditions of the biochars, which are essential ingredients of terra preta and organic fertilizers used in this study.
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