Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 17, Issue 12, pp 2763–2774 | Cite as

Short-term effects of organo-mineral biochar and organic fertilisers on nitrogen cycling, plant photosynthesis, and nitrogen use efficiency

  • Thi Thu Nhan NguyenEmail author
  • Helen M. Wallace
  • Cheng-Yuan Xu
  • Zhihong Xu
  • Michael B. Farrar
  • Stephen Joseph
  • Lukas Van Zwieten
  • Shahla Hosseini Bai
Soils, Sec 2 • Global Change, Environ Risk Assess, Sustainable Land Use • Research Article



Organo-mineral biochar fertiliser has the potential to replace conventional biochar and organic fertiliser to improve soil quality and increase plant photosynthesis. This study explored mechanisms involved in nitrogen (N) cycling in both soil and ginger plants (Zingiber officinale: Zingiberaceae) following different treatments including organic fertiliser, commercial bamboo biochar fertiliser, and organo-mineral biochar fertiliser.

Materials and methods

Soil received four treatments including (1) commercial organic fertiliser (5 t ha−1) as the control, (2) commercial bamboo biochar fertiliser (5 t ha−1), (3) organo-mineral biochar fertiliser at a low rate (3 t ha−1), and (4) organo-mineral biochar fertiliser at a high rate (7.5 t ha−1). C and N fractions of soil and plant, and gas exchange measurements were analysed.

Results and discussion

Initially, organo-mineral biochar fertiliser applied at the low rate increased leaf N. Organo-mineral biochar fertiliser applied at the high rate significantly increased N use efficiency (NUE) of the aboveground biomass compared with other treatments and improved photosynthesis compared with the control. There was N fractionation during plant N uptake and assimilation since the 15N enrichment between the root, leaf, and stem were significantly different from zero; however, treatments did not affect this N fractionation.


Organo-mineral biochar fertiliser has agronomic advantages over inorganic and raw organic (manure-based) N fertiliser because it allows farmer to put high concentrations of nutrients into soil without restricting N availability, N uptake, and plant photosynthesis. We recommend applying the low rate of organo-mineral biochar fertiliser as a substitute for commercial organic fertiliser.


Adsorption Charcoal Gas exchange Ginger Isotope Organic farming 



TTNN was supported by VIED and University of the Sunshine Coast to undertake this study. We thank Mt. Mellum Horticulture for the farm access and facility support. We acknowledge Mr. Geoffrey Lambert and Mr. Radoslaw Bak for the assistance with laboratory analysis and Mr. Murray Elks, Ms. Emma Worthington, Mr. Bruce Randall, Dr. David Walton, Mr. Ross McIntosh, Mr. Ian Darby, Mr. Chris Taylor, and Mrs. April Grey during this experimental establishment and harvest. This study was supported with Seed Funding from University of the Sunshine Coast (USC/CRN2012/03) and Griffith University (EFC-JRE). SHB and CYX were research fellows supported by Collaborative Research Network, University of the Sunshine Coast Research Futures project (CRN2011:08).

Supplementary material

11368_2017_1839_MOESM1_ESM.docx (98 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 98 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Science and Engineering, Faculty of Science, Health, Education and EngineeringUniversity of the Sunshine CoastMaroochydore DCAustralia
  2. 2.Hanoi University of Natural Resources and EnvironmentHanoiVietnam
  3. 3.School of Health, Medical and Applied SciencesCentral Queensland UniversityBundabergAustralia
  4. 4.Environmental Futures Research Institute, School of Natural SciencesGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  5. 5.School of Materials Science and EngineeringUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  6. 6.NSW Department of Primary IndustriesWollongbar Primary Industries InstituteWollongbarAustralia
  7. 7.Southern Cross Plant ScienceSouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia
  8. 8.School of Environmental and Rural SciencesUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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