Biology and Fertility of Soils

, Volume 52, Issue 2, pp 261–270 | Cite as

Rice husk biochar and crop residue amendment in subtropical cropping soils: effect on biomass production, nitrogen use efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions

  • Dai H. Nguyen
  • Clemens Scheer
  • David W. Rowlings
  • Peter R. Grace
Original Paper


We investigated the effect of maize residues and rice husk biochar on biomass production, fertiliser nitrogen recovery (FNR) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions for three different subtropical cropping soils. Maize residues at two rates (0 and 10 t ha−1) combined with three rates (0, 15 and 30 t ha-1) of rice husk biochar were added to three soil types in a pot trial with maize plants. Soil N2O emissions were monitored with static chambers for 91 days. Isotopic 15N-labelled urea was applied to the treatments without added crop residues to measure the FNR. Crop residue incorporation significantly reduced N uptake in all treatments but did not affect overall FNR. Rice husk biochar amendment had no effect on plant growth and N uptake but significantly reduced N2O and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in two of the three soils. The incorporation of crop residues had a contrasting effect on soil N2O emissions depending on the mineral N status of the soil. The study shows that effects of crop residues depend on soil properties at the time of application. Adding crop residues with a high C/N ratio to soil can immobilise N in the soil profile and hence reduce N uptake and/or total biomass production. Crop residue incorporation can either stimulate or reduce N2O emissions depending on the mineral N content of the soil. Crop residues pyrolysed to biochar can potentially stabilise native soil C (negative priming) and reduce N2O emissions from cropping soils thus providing climate change mitigation potential beyond the biochar C storage in soils. Incorporation of crop residues as an approach to recycle organic materials and reduce synthetic N fertiliser use in agricultural production requires a thorough evaluation, both in terms of biomass production and greenhouse gas emissions.


Crop residues Greenhouse gas N2Nitrogen fertiliser recovery Rice husk biochar 



We thank L. Trevaskis, C. Lhomer and F. Aliaga for the experimental setup, and S. Russell, A. Strazzabosco, D. Warner and J. Friedl for their analytical supports. We also thank Mr. J. Sneesby (NSW) and Mr. R. Skopp (QLD) for allowing us to collect soils for the experiment in their farm. We also thank VIED-QUT for providing the scholarship. Some of the data reported in this paper were obtained at the Central Analytical Research Facility operated by the Institute for Future Environments (QUT).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dai H. Nguyen
    • 1
  • Clemens Scheer
    • 1
  • David W. Rowlings
    • 1
  • Peter R. Grace
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Future EnvironmentsQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

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