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Biochar-enhanced composts reduce the potential leaching of nutrients and heavy metals and suppress plant-parasitic nematodes in excessively fertilized cucumber soils

Abstract

Excessive fertilization is a common agricultural practice that has largely reduced soil nutrient retention capacity and led to nutrient leaching in China. To reduce nutrient leaching, in this study, we evaluated the application of biochar, compost, and biochar-compost on soil properties, leaching water quality, and cucumber plant growth in soils with different nutrient levels. In general, the concentrations of nutrients and heavy metals in leaching water were higher under high-nutrient conditions than under low-nutrient conditions. Both biochar and compost efficiently enhanced soil cation exchange capacity (CEC), water holding capacity (WHC), and microbial biomass carbon (MBC), nitrogen (MBN), and phosphorus (MBP), reduced the potential leaching of nutrients and heavy metals, and improved plant growth. The efficiency of biochar and compost in soil CEC, WHC, MBC, MBN, and MBP and plant growth was enhanced when applied jointly. In addition, biochar and biochar-enhanced compost efficiently suppressed plant-parasitic nematode infestation in a soil with high levels of both N and P. Our results suggest that biochar-enhanced compost can reduce the potential environmental risks in excessively fertilized vegetable soils.

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Acknowledgments

The authors appreciate the supports received from the Project Constructing First-Class Horticultural Disciplines in Ningxia University and the National Science & Technology Pillar Program during the Twelfth Five-Year Plan Period (Project 2014BAD05B02).

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Correspondence to Yune Cao.

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Responsible editor: Hailong Wang

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Cao, Y., Gao, Y., Qi, Y. et al. Biochar-enhanced composts reduce the potential leaching of nutrients and heavy metals and suppress plant-parasitic nematodes in excessively fertilized cucumber soils. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 7589–7599 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-1061-4

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Keywords

  • High fertilizer input
  • Water holding capacity
  • Leaching water quality
  • Microbial biomass
  • Biological properties
  • Organic amendments
  • Plant growth