Changes in δ15N in a soil–plant system under different biochar feedstocks and application rates

F. Reverchon, R.C. Flicker, Hong Yang, Guijun Yan, Z. Xu, C. Chen, S. Bai, Dongke Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

55 Citations (Scopus)


© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013. The application of biochar in soils has been hypothesised to improve soil quality whilst enhancing carbon (C) sequestration. However, its effect on nitrogen (N) dynamics in the soil–plant system is still not fully understood. In the present work, N isotope composition (δ15N) was used to facilitate the understanding of the processes involved in the N cycling when biochar is applied. We evaluated, through a wheat pot trial, the effect of different application rates of two types of biochar produced from jarrah and pine woodchips on the wheat biomass at harvest and on the soil and plant C and N contents and δ15N. In addition, the potential benefit of using nutrient-saturated biochar for the soil–plant system was also investigated. Whilst biochar produced from different feedstocks had similar effects on soil and plant nutrient contents, they induced differences in wheat grain biomass and plant δ15N. The effect of the biochar application rate was more pronounced, and at rates higher than 29 t ha−1, the application of biochar decreased grain biomass by up to 39 % and potentially increased N losses. Isotopic analyses indicated that this acceleration of N dynamics had probably occurred before the stage of wheat grain formation. The application of nutrientenriched biochar resulted in an improved wheat grain production, most likely due to the enhanced nutrient availability, and in reduced N cycling rates in the plant–soil system, which could offset the competition between biochar and plants for nutrients and could decrease adverse environmental impacts due to N losses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-283
Number of pages9
JournalBiology and Fertility of Soils
Issue number2
Early online date12 Sep 2013
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014

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