Plant and Soil

, Volume 327, Issue 1–2, pp 235–246 | Cite as

Effects of biochar from slow pyrolysis of papermill waste on agronomic performance and soil fertility

  • L. Van Zwieten
  • S. Kimber
  • S. Morris
  • K. Y. Chan
  • A. Downie
  • J. Rust
  • S. Joseph
  • A. Cowie
Regular Article


The amendment of two agricultural soils with two biochars derived from the slow pyrolysis of papermill waste was assessed in a glasshouse study. Characterisation of both biochars revealed high surface area (115 m2 g−1) and zones of calcium mineral agglomeration. The biochars differed slightly in their liming values (33% and 29%), and carbon content (50% and 52%). Molar H/C ratios of 0.3 in the biochars suggested aromatic stability. At application rates of 10 t ha−1 in a ferrosol both biochars significantly increased pH, CEC, exchangeable Ca and total C, while in a calcarosol both biochars increased C while biochar 2 also increased exchangeable K. Biochars reduced Al availability (ca. 2 cmol (+) kg−1 to <0.1 cmol (+) kg−1) in the ferrosol. The analysis of biomass production revealed a range of responses, due to both biochar characteristics and soil type. Both biochars significantly increased N uptake in wheat grown in fertiliser amended ferrosol. Concomitant increase in biomass production (250% times that of control) therefore suggested improved fertiliser use efficiency. Likewise, biochar amendment significantly increased biomass in soybean and radish in the ferrosol with fertiliser. The calcarosol amended with fertiliser and biochar however gave varied crop responses: Increased soybean biomass, but reduced wheat and radish biomass. No significant effects of biochar were shown in the absence of fertiliser for wheat and soybean, while radish biomass increased significantly. Earthworms showed preference for biochar-amended ferrosol over control soils with no significant difference recorded for the calcarosol. The results from this work demonstrate that the agronomic benefits of papermill biochars have to be verified for different soil types and crops.


Biochar Papermill Carbon characterisation Earthworm Agronomic performance Waste management Soil health 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Van Zwieten
    • 1
  • S. Kimber
    • 1
  • S. Morris
    • 1
  • K. Y. Chan
    • 2
  • A. Downie
    • 3
    • 4
  • J. Rust
    • 1
  • S. Joseph
    • 4
  • A. Cowie
    • 5
  1. 1.NSW Department of Primary Industries, 1243 Bruxner HighwayWollongbarAustralia
  2. 2.NSW Department of Primary IndustriesRichmondAustralia
  3. 3.Best Energies P/LSomersbyAustralia
  4. 4.School of Material Science and EngineeringUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  5. 5.NSW Department of Primary IndustriesWest Pennant HillsAustralia

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