Short-term effects of organo-mineral enriched biochar fertiliser on ginger yield and nutrient cycling
Biochar has agronomic potential but currently is too expensive for widespread adoption. New methodologies are emerging to reduce the cost such as enriching biochar with nutrients that match crops and soil requirements. However, the effects of biochar-based fertilisers on plant yield and soil nutrient availability have not been widely examined. This study investigated the effects of a novel organo-mineral biochar fertiliser in comparison to organic and commercial biochar fertiliser on ginger (Zingiber officinale Canton).
Materials and methods
There were four treatments: (1) commercial organic fertiliser (5 t ha−1), as the control; (2) commercial biochar-based fertiliser (5 t ha−1); (3) organo-mineral biochar fertiliser at low rate (3 t ha−1); and (4) organo-mineral biochar fertiliser at high rate (7.5 t ha−1). A replicated pot trial was established with black dermosol soil and ten replicate pots for each treatment. Ginger was planted and grown for 30 weeks. Plant growth, biomass, foliar nutrients and water extractable soil nutrients including phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and calcium (Ca) were examined.
Results and discussion
High rate organo-mineral biochar fertiliser increased soil P and K availability at week 30 (harvest) after planting, compared to all other treatments and low rate organo-mineral biochar fertiliser performed similarly to the organic control for P and K. High rate organo-mineral biochar fertiliser increased total foliar nutrient content at week 30 in P, K and Ca compared to commercial biochar fertiliser. High rate organo-mineral biochar fertiliser improved the commercial value of ginger (+ 36%) due to a shift in the proportion of higher grade rhizomes. Low rate organo-mineral biochar fertiliser plants displayed similar yield, total dry and aboveground biomass to commercial organic fertiliser. Commercial biochar fertiliser had significantly lower biomass measures compared with other treatments as the rate applied had lower nutrient concentrations.
Our results show organo-mineral biochar fertilisers could be substituted for commercial organic fertilisers at low rates to maintain similar yield or applied at high rates to increase commercial value where economically feasible.
KeywordsBiochar fertiliser Enriched biochar Ginger (Zingiber officinale Canton) Organic farming Organo-mineral biochar fertiliser Phosphorus
MF was supported by Honours funding at University of the Sunshine Coast to undertake this study. 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). The authors would like to acknowledge Mr. Murray Elks for the donation of poultry litter, Mr. Geoffrey Lambert and Mr. Scott Byrnes for assistance with laboratory analysis, Mrs. Emma Farrar, Mr. Bruce Randall, Dr. David Walton, Mr. Ross McIntosh, Mr. Ian Darby, Mr. Chris Taylor and Mrs. April Gray for assistance in field work and Dr. Peter K. Dunn for statistical analysis guidance.
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