Biochar nutrient availability rather than its water holding capacity governs the growth of both C3 and C4 plants

Y. Wang, Lianwei Zhang, Hong Yang, Guijun Yan, Z. Xu, C. Chen, Dongke Zhang

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© 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Purpose: Biochar has been suggested as a soil conditioner to improve soil fertility and crop productivity while simultaneously mitigate global climate change by storing carbon in the soil. This study investigated the effect of pine (Pinus radiata) biochar application on soil water availability, nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) pools and growth of C3 and C4 plants. Materials and methods: In a glasshouse pot trial, a pine biochar (untreated) and nutrient-enriched pine biochar were applied to a market garden soil with C3 (Spinacia oleracea L.) and C4 (Amaranthus paniculatus L.) plants at rates of 0, 1.0, 2.0, and 4.0 % (w/w). Plant biomass, soil pH, moisture content, water holding capacity (WHC), hot water extractable organic C (HWEOC), and total N (HWETN), total C and N, and their isotope compositions (d13C and d15N) of soils and plants were measured at the end of the experimentation. Results and discussion: The soil moisture content increased while plant biomass decreased with increasing untreated biochar application rates. The addition of nutrient-enriched biochar significantly improved plant biomass in comparison to the untreated biochar addition at most application rates. Biochar application also increased the levels of labile organic C and N pools as indicated by HWEOC and HWETN. Conclusions: The results suggested that the addition of pine biochar significantly improved soil water availability but not plant growth. The application of nutrient-enriched pine biochar demonstrated that the growth of C3 and C4 plants was governed by biochar nutrient availability rather than its water holding capacity under the pot trial condition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-810
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Soils and Sediments
Issue number3
Early online date23 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


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