Impact of biochar on nutrient supply, crop yield and microbial respiration on sandy soils of northern Germany

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Knoblauch, C., Priyadarshani, S. H. R., Haefele, S. M., Schroder, N. and Pfeiffer, E-M. 2021. Impact of biochar on nutrient supply, crop yield and microbial respiration on sandy soils of northern Germany. European Journal of Soil Science. https://doi.org/10.1111/ejss.13088

AuthorsKnoblauch, C., Priyadarshani, S. H. R., Haefele, S. M., Schroder, N. and Pfeiffer, E-M.
Abstract

The application of biochar to agricultural soils to increase nutrient availability, crop production and carbon sequestration has gained increasing interest but data from field experiments on temperate, marginal soils are still under‐represented. In the current study, biochar, produced from organic residues (digestates) from a biogas plant, was applied with and without digestates at low (3.4 t ha−1) and intermediate (17.1 t ha−1) rates to two acidic and sandy soils in northern Germany that are used for corn (Zea mays L.) production. Soil nutrient availability, crop yields, microbial biomass and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from heterotrophic respiration were measured over two consecutive years. The effects of biochar application depended on the intrinsic properties of the two tested soils and the biochar application rates. Although the soils at the fallow site, with initially low nutrient concentrations, showed a significant increase in pH, soil nutrients and crop yield after low biochar application rates, a similar response was found at the cornfield site only after application of substantially larger amounts of biochar. The effect of a single dose of biochar at the beginning of the experiment diminished over time but was still detectable after 2 years. Whereas plant available nutrient concentrations increased after biochar application, the availability of potentially phytotoxic trace elements (Zn, Pb, Cd, Cr) decreased significantly, and although slight increases in microbial biomass carbon and heterotrophic CO2 fluxes were observed after biochar application, they were mostly not significant. The results indicate that the application of relatively small amounts of biochar could have positive effects on plant available nutrients and crop yields of marginal arable soils and may decrease the need for mineral fertilizers while simultaneously increasing the sequestration of soil organic carbon.

KeywordsBlack carbon; Carbon sequestration; Corn ; Digestate; Heterotrophic respiration; Marginal soils; Microbial biomass
Year of Publication2021
JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/ejss.13088
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeS2N - Soil to Nutrition - Work package 1 (WP1) - Optimising nutrient flows and pools in the soil-plant-biota system
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online08 Feb 2021
Publication process dates
Accepted20 Jan 2021
PublisherWiley
ISSN1351-0754

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