Plant and Soil

, Volume 333, Issue 1, pp 117–128

Maize yield and nutrition during 4 years after biochar application to a Colombian savanna oxisol


  • Julie Major
    • Department of Crop and Soil SciencesCornell University
  • Marco Rondon
    • Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT)
    • International Development Research Centre
  • Diego Molina
    • Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT)
    • Centro de Investigaciones en Palma de Aceite
  • Susan J. Riha
    • Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesCornell University
    • Department of Crop and Soil SciencesCornell University
Regular Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11104-010-0327-0

Cite this article as:
Major, J., Rondon, M., Molina, D. et al. Plant Soil (2010) 333: 117. doi:10.1007/s11104-010-0327-0


The application of biochar (biomass-derived black carbon) to soil has been shown to improve crop yields, but the reasons for this are often not clearly demonstrated. Here, we studied the effect of a single application of 0, 8 and 20 t ha−1 of biochar to a Colombian savanna Oxisol for 4 years (2003–2006), under a maize-soybean rotation. Soil sampling to 30 cm was carried out after maize harvest in all years but 2005, maize tissue samples were collected and crop biomass was measured at harvest. Maize grain yield did not significantly increase in the first year, but increases in the 20 t ha−1 plots over the control were 28, 30 and 140% for 2004, 2005 and 2006, respectively. The availability of nutrients such as Ca and Mg was greater with biochar, and crop tissue analyses showed that Ca and Mg were limiting in this system. Soil pH increased, and exchangeable acidity showed a decreasing trend with biochar application. We attribute the greater crop yield and nutrient uptake primarily to the 77–320% greater available Ca and Mg in soil where biochar was applied.


BiocharColombiaCrop yieldExchangeable acidityMaizeOxisolTropical savannas

Supplementary material

11104_2010_327_MOESM1_ESM.doc (42 kb)
ESM 1(DOC 41 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010