Long-term biochar application promotes rice productivity by regulating root dynamic development and reducing nitrogen leaching

Bitao Liu, Hongliang Li, Hongbo Li, Aiping Zhang, Zed Rengel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


Biochar is beneficial for improving soil quality and crop productivity. However, the long-term effects of biochar addition on temporal dynamics of plant shoot and root growth, and the changes in soil properties and nitrogen (N) leaching are still obscure. Here, based on a long-term (7 years) biochar field experiment with rice in northwest China, we investigated the effects of two biochar rates (0 and 9 t ha−1 year−1) and two N fertilizer rates (0 and 300 kg N ha−1 year−1) on shoot and root growth, root morphology, N leaching, and soil physicochemical properties. The results showed that both biochar and N fertilizer significantly promoted rice growth, with their interaction significant only in some cases. Both fertilizers enhanced rice shoot biomass and N accumulation in various growth stages as well as increased grain yield. Nitrogen fertilizer significantly promoted root growth regardless of biochar application. However, biochar application without N fertilizer increased root biomass and length during the whole growth period, except in the booting stage; biochar with N application promoted root growth at tillering, reduced root biomass but maintained root length with low root diameter and high specific root length during the jointing and booting stages, and then delayed root senescence in the grain filling stage. Long-term applications of biochar and N fertilizer reduced 10%–12% bulk density of topsoil compared to the control treatment with no N fertilizer and no biochar. Long-term biochar application also improved soil total organic carbon and concentrations of available N, phosphorus, and potassium. In addition, biochar and N fertilizer applied together significantly reduced nitrate and ammonium concentration in leachate at different soil depths. In conclusion, biochar could regulate root growth, root morphology, soil properties, and N leaching to increase rice N fertilizer-use efficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-268
Number of pages12
JournalGCB Bioenergy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


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