Skip to main content

Impact of biochar amendment on the growth, physiology and fruit of a young commercial apple orchard

Abstract

Key message

Potential benefits of biochar and compost soil amendments may not be realised in high-input perennial horticultural systems such as an apple orchard.

Abstract

Mechanistic understanding of how biochar affects tree physiology is deficient. We determined the effects of biochar amendment on crop yields, growth and tree physiology of a high-input perennial horticultural system. The biochar was acacia whole tree green waste that had undergone pyrolysis in a continuous flow kiln at temperatures up to 550 °C for 30–40 min. Tree growth, crop yield efficiency and fruit quality were assessed to investigate the effects of biochar, compost and combined biochar and compost (B + C) treatments on the productivity of a newly planted apple orchard over a four-year period. The site was characterised by an A1 horizon 38 cm deep with a CEC of 35.15 cmol kg−1, \({\text{pH}}_{{{\text{CaCl}}_{2} }}\) of 5.7 and an organic carbon of 2.42 %. All treatments received approximately 42.5, 5.98, 131.1 and 12 kg ha−1 year−1 of N, P, K and Ca via fertiliser and green fowl manure inputs, respectively. Leaf gas exchange, leaf nutrient concentration and water status were recorded during the second cropping season in the biochar and control treatments only. Crop yield and fruit quality parameters were unaffected by the soil amendment treatments. Trunk girth was significantly higher than the control in the B + C and biochar treatments, in the first year and fourth year, respectively, while compost had no effect in any year. Neither photosynthetic capacity nor leaf nutrient concentration was influenced by treatment. Seasonal daily tree water use was similar between biochar and control treatments. The general lack of difference between treatments suggests that perennial horticultural systems characterised by high inputs of nutrients and water may not respond to biochar. This is the first report investigating the whole-plant physiology of apple trees with biochar amendment.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

References

  • Asai H, Samson BK, Stephan HM, Songyikhangsuthor K, Homma K, Kiyono Y, Inoue Y, Shiraiwa T, Horie T (2009) Biochar amendment techniques for upland rice production in Northern Laos: 1 Soil physical properties, leaf SPAD and grain yield. Field Crops Res 111:81–84

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baldi E, Toselli M, Eissenstat DM, Marangoni B (2010) Organic fertilization leads to increased peach root production and lifespan. Tree Physiol 30:1373–1382

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Baronti S, VaccariFP Miglietta F, Calzolari C, Lugato E, Orlandini S, Pini R, Zulian C, Genesio L (2014) Impact of biochar application on plant water relations in Vitis vinifera (L.). Eur J Agron 53:38–44

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Basso AS, Miguez FE, Laird DA, Horton R, Westgate M (2013) Assessing potential of biochar for increasing waterholding capacity of sandy soils. GCB Bioenergy 5:132–143

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bierderman LA, Harpole WS (2013) Biochar and its effects on plant productivity and nutrient cycling: a meta-analysis. GCB Bioenergy 5:202–214

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chun IJ, Fallahi E, Shafii B, Tripepi RR, Colt WM (2002) Influence of rootstocks and microsprinkler fertigation on photosynthesis of ‘Fuji’ apple trees. J Am Pomol Soc 56:23–29

    Google Scholar 

  • Close DC, Battaglia M, Davidson NJ, Beadle CL (2004) Within-canopy gradients of nitrogen and photosynthetic activity of Eucalyptus nitens and Eucalyptus globulus in response to nitrogen nutrition. Aust J Bot 52:133–140

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Elad Y, David DR, Harel YM, Borenshtein M, Kalifa HB, Silber A, Graber ER (2010) Induction of systemic resistance in plants by biochar, a soil-applied carbon sequestering agent. Dis Control Pest Manag 100:913–921

    Google Scholar 

  • Eyles A, Worledge D, Sands PJ, Ottenschalger M, Paterson S, Mendham D, O’Grady AP (2012) Ecophysiological responses of a young blue gum plantation (Eucalyptus globulus) to weed control. Tree Physiol 32:1008–1020

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Graber ER, Harel YM, Kolton M, Cytryn E, Silber A, David DR, Tsechansky L, Borenshtein M, Elad Y (2010) Biochar impact on development and productivity of pepper and tomato grown in fertigated soilless media. Plant Soil 337:481–496

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Green SR, Clothier BE, Jardine BG (2003) Theory and practical application of heat-pulse to measure sap flow. Agron J 95:371–1379

    Google Scholar 

  • Green SR, Clothier BE, Perie E (2009) A re-analysis of heat-pulse theory across a wide range of sap flows. Acta Hortic 846:95–104

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Guerena D, Lehmann J, Hanley K, Enders A, Hyland C, Riha S (2013) Nitrogen dynamics following field application of biochar in a temperate North American maize-based production system. Plant Soil 365:239–254

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hammond J, Shackley S, Prendergast-Miller M, Cook J, Buckingham S, Pappa VA (2013) Biochar field testing in the UK: outcomes and implications for use. Carbon Manag 4:159–170

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hardie M, Clothier B, Bound S, Oliver G, Close D (2014) Does biochar influence soil physical properties and soil water availability? Plant Soil 376:347–361

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Isbell RF (2002) The Australian Soil Classification CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne

  • Ishii T, Kadoya K (1994) Effects of charcoal as a soil conditioner on citrus growth and vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal development. J Jpn Soc Hortic Sci 63:529–535

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jeffery S, Verheijen FFA, van der Velde M, Bastos AC (2011) A quantitative review of the effects of biochar application to soils on crop productivity using meta-analysis. Agric Eco Environ 144:175–187

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jones L, Rousk J, Edwards-Jones G, DeLuca H, Murphy V (2012) Biochar-mediated changes in soil quality and plant growth in a three-year field trial. Soil Biol Biochem 45:113–124

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kammann CL, Linsel S, Gößling JW, Koyro H-W (2011) Influence of biochar on drought tolerance of Chenopodium quinoa Willd and on soil–plant relations. Plant Soil 345:195–210

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Karhu K, Mattila T, Bergstrom I, Regina K (2011) Biochar addition to agricultural soil increased CH4 uptake and water holding capacity—results from a short-term pilot field study. Agric Eco Environ 140:309–313

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Laird D, Fleming P, Wang B, Horton R, Karlen D (2010) Biochar impact on nutrient leaching from a Midwestern agricultural soil. Geoderma 158:346–442

    Google Scholar 

  • Lehmann J (2007) Bio-energy in the black. Front Ecol Environ 5:381–387

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lehmann J, Rillig MC, Thies J, Masiello CA, Hockaday WC, Crowley D (2011) Biochar effects on soil biota—a review. Soil Biol Biochem 43:1812–1836

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Major J, Rondon M, Molina D, Riha SJ, Lehmann J (2010) Maize yield and nutrition during four years after biochar application to a Colombian savanna Oxisol. Plant Soil 333:117–128

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • McDonald RC, Isbell RF, Speight JG, Walker J, Hopkins MS (1990) Australian soil and land survey: field handbook. Inkata, Melbourne

    Google Scholar 

  • Neilsen GH, Hogue EJ, Neilsen D (2004) Use of organic applications to increase productivity of high density apple orchards. Acta Hortic 638:347–356

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Noguera D, Rondon M, Laossi KR, Hoyos V, Lavelle P, Cruz de Carvalho MH, Barot S (2010) Contrasted effect of biochar and earthworms on rice growth and resource allocation in different soils. Soil Biol Biochem 42:1017–1027

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Quilliam RS, Marsden KA, Gertler C, Rousk J, DeLuca TH, Jones DL (2012) Nutrient dynamics, microbial growth and weed emergence in biochar amended soil are influenced by time since application and reapplication rate. Agric Eco Environ 158:192–199

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schrechter I, Proctor JTA (1994) Carbon exchange rate and accumulation in limbs of fruiting and nonfruiting apple trees. J Am Soc Hortic Sci 119:150–156

    Google Scholar 

  • Spokas KA, Cantrell KB, Novak JM et al (2012) Biochar: synthesis of its agronomic impact beyond carbon sequestration. J Environ Qual 41:973–989

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Stavi I (2013) Biochar use in forestry and tree-based agro-ecosystems for increasing climate change mitigation and adaptation. Int J Sust Dev World 202:166–181

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Street T (2010) Effect of biochar on apple growth and nutrition (Hons Thesis). University of Tasmania, Tasmania

    Google Scholar 

  • Sun H, Hockaday WC, Masiello CA, Zygourakis K (2012) Multiple controls on the chemical and physical structure of biochars. Ind Eng Chem Res 51:3587–3597

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thies J, Rilling MC (2009) (2009) Characteristics of biochar: biological properties. In: Lehmann J, Joseph A (eds) Biochar for environmental management: science and technology. Earthscan, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Toselli M, Baldi E, Marcolini G, Quartieri M, Sorrenti G, Marangoni B, Innocenti A (2012) Effect of organic fertilization on soil fertility, tree nutritional status and nutrient removal of mature nectarine trees. Acta Hortic 1001:303–310

    Google Scholar 

  • Utkhede RS, Smith EM (1992) Promotion of apple tree growth and fruit production by the EBW-4 strain of Bacillus subtilis in apple replant disease soil. Can J Microbiol 38:1270–1273

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • van Schoor L, Stassen PJC, Botha A (2012) Effect of organic material and biological amendments on pear tree performance and soil microbial and chemical properties. Acta Hortic 933:205–214

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Van Zwieten L, Kimber S, Morris S, Chan KY, Downie A, Rust J, Joseph S, Cowie A (2010) Effects of biochar from slow pyrolysis of papermill waste on agronomic performance and soil fertility. Plant Soil 327:235–246

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ventura M, Sorrenti G, Panzacchi P, George E, Tonon G (2013) Biochar reduces short-term nitrate leaching from a horizon in an apple orchard. J Environ Qual 42:76–82

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Verheijen F, Jeffery AC, Bastos AC, van der Velde, Diafas I (2010) Biochar application to soil: a critical scientific review of effects on soil properties, processes and functions. EUR 24099 EN, Office for the Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg

  • Walkley A, Black TA (1934) An examination of the Degtjareff method for determining soil organic matter and a proposed modification of the chromic acid titration method. Soil Sci 37:29–38

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Warnock DD, Mummey DL, McBride B, Major J, Lehmann J, Rillig MC (2010) Influences of non-herbaceous biochar on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal abundances in roots and soils: results from growth-chamber and field experiments. App Soil Ecol 46:450–456

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We thank Drs. Mark Boersma and Caroline Mohammed for valuable comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. We thank Adrian and Scott Stevenson for their continued support of the research undertaken in their orchard. Justin Direen and Steve Paterson provided valuable technical support to the project. This project was conducted as part of the apple and pear industry Productivity Irrigation Pests and Soils (PIPS) flagship program and funded by HAL using the apple and pear industry levy and voluntary contributions from the Institute for New Zealand Plant and Food Research and matched funds from the Australian Government.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alieta Eyles.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Communicated by D. Treutter.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Eyles, A., Bound, S.A., Oliver, G. et al. Impact of biochar amendment on the growth, physiology and fruit of a young commercial apple orchard. Trees 29, 1817–1826 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00468-015-1263-7

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00468-015-1263-7

Keywords

  • Tree water status
  • Gas exchange
  • Crop yield
  • Leaf water potential
  • Growth
  • Fruit quality