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

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Conclusions

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.

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Acknowledgements

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).

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Correspondence to Thi Thu Nhan Nguyen.

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Nguyen, T.T.N., Wallace, H.M., Xu, CY. et al. Short-term effects of organo-mineral biochar and organic fertilisers on nitrogen cycling, plant photosynthesis, and nitrogen use efficiency. J Soils Sediments 17, 2763–2774 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-017-1839-5

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Keywords

  • Adsorption
  • Charcoal
  • Gas exchange
  • Ginger
  • Isotope
  • Organic farming