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Biochar co-applied with organic amendments increased soil-plant potassium and root biomass but not crop yield

Abstract

Purpose

Biochar can improve soil nutrient retention and alleviate salinity; however, use is not widespread due to cost. Biochar is usually co-applied with a full-rate of supplementary fertiliser before planting. This study investigated co-application of bamboo biochar with organic fertiliser and amendments on nutrient cycling, plant growth, yield and commercial value of ginger.

Methods

Four treatments were applied including no amendment, organic amendments and organic amendments co-applied with biochar at two applications rates of 10 t ha−1 and 30 t ha−1. Plant growth, biomass, foliar nutrient and water-extractable soil nutrients were examined.

Results

Co-applied high rate biochar increased available soil potassium (K) concentration (+ 89%) over 22 weeks and led to increased foliar K concentration (+ 25%) at harvest and after 30 weeks compared with organic amendments alone. Biochar high rate decreased soil sodium concentration (− 22%) over 22 weeks. Biochar high rate increased root mass fraction and plant height but decreased the number of stems, and therefore, did not increase aboveground biomass compared with all other treatments. In contrast, ginger rhizome yield, grade and commercial value were not affected by biochar treatments.

Conclusion

Added biochar provided additional net K that improved foliar concentration late in the growing season following dissolution. The additional K supply then stimulated root growth and biomass re-allocation despite daily irrigation throughout the growing season. Therefore, we suggest biochar as a useful amendment to prevent nutrient loss and alleviate salinity for organic crops.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge Mr. Scott Byrnes and Mr. Geoffrey Lambert and for assistance with laboratory analysis, Mrs. Emma Farrar, Mr. Bruce Randall, Mr. Ross McIntosh, Mr. Ian Darby, Mr. Chris Taylor, Mrs. April Gray and Dr. David Walton for their valued assistance with field work.

Funding

Mr. Michael B Farrar was supported by University of the Sunshine Coast and received an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholarship to undertake this research. This study was supported with Seed Funding from Griffith University and University of the Sunshine Coast.

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Farrar, M.B., Wallace, H.M., Xu, CY. et al. Biochar co-applied with organic amendments increased soil-plant potassium and root biomass but not crop yield. J Soils Sediments 21, 784–798 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-020-02846-2

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Keywords

  • Biochar
  • Organic farming
  • Potassium
  • Nutrient retention
  • Dermosol
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale Canton)