Phosphorus Fertilizing Effects of Biomass Ashes

  • Katja Schiemenz
  • Jürgen Kern
  • Hans-Marten Paulsen
  • Silvia Bachmann
  • Bettina Eichler-LöbermannEmail author


The reutilization of biomass ashes in agriculture is important to create nutrient cycles. In field and pot experiments we investigated the fertilizing effects of different biomass ashes (rape meal ash, straw ash, and cereal ash) for eight different crops on a loamy sand and a sandy loam. Special emphasis was given to phosphorus (P). The ashes showed large differences in their elemental composition. The highest P contents (10.5%) were measured in the cereal ash, and lowest in straw ash (1% P). The solubility of P in water was low; however, about 80% of P was soluble in citric acid. Generally, the P fertilizing effect of ashes was comparable to that of highly soluble P fertilizers such as triple superphosphate. The ash supply resulted in an increase of P uptake of cultivated crops as well as in increased soil P pools (total P, water-soluble P, double-lactate-soluble P, oxalate-soluble P) and P saturation. The ash effects depended also on the cultivated crop. Good results were found in combination with phacelia, buckwheat, and maize. Provided that biomass ashes are low in heavy metals and other toxic substances, the ashes can be applied in agriculture as a valuable fertilizer.


Sandy Loam Loamy Sand Cluster Root Catch Crop Bone Meal 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This project was supported by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV), Germany (support code 22016206) (2007–2009). The project execution organization was the Agency for Renewable Resources (FNR), Germany. The project was accomplished in cooperation with the following project partners: the Institute of Organic Farming of the Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institute (vTI)/Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering Potsdam-Bornim, Germany.


  1. Blume HP, Deller B, Leschber R, Paetz A, Schmidt S, Wilke B-M (2000) Handbuch der Bodenuntersuchung. Terminologie, Verfahrensvorschriften und Datenblätter. Physikalische, chemische und biologische Untersuchungsverfahren. Gesetzliche Regelwerke. Wiley-VCH, WeinheimGoogle Scholar
  2. Bougnom B, Knapp BA, Etoa FX, Insam H (2011) Possible use of wood ash and compost for improving acid tropical soils. In: Insam H, Knapp BA (eds) Recycling of biomass ashes. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 87–106Google Scholar
  3. Codling EE, Chaney RL, Scherwell J (2002) Poultry litter ash as a potential phosphorus source for agricultural crops. J Environ Qual 31:954–961PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Demeyer A, Nkana JCV, Verloo MG (2001) Characteristics of wood ash and influence on soil properties and nutrient uptake: an overview. Bioresour Technol 77:287–295PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Egle K, Römer W, Keller H (2003) Exudation of low molecular weight organic acids by Lupinus albus L., Lupinus angustifolius L. and Lupinus luteus L. as affected by phosphorus supply. Agronomie 23:511–518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Eichler-Löbermann B, Köhne S, Kowalski B, Schnug E (2008a) Effect of catch cropping on phosphorus bioavailability in comparison to organic and inorganic fertilization. J Plant Nutr 31:659–676CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Eichler-Löbermann B, Schiemenz K, Makadi M, Vago I, Köppen D (2008b) Nutrient cycling by using residues of bioenergy production – II. Effects of biomass ashes on plant and soil parameters. Cereal Res Commun 36:1259–1262Google Scholar
  8. Erich MS, Ohno T (1992) Phosphorus availability to corn from wood ash amended soils. Water Air Soil Pollut 64:475–485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. European Commission (2010) Commission adopts biomass sustainability report. Accessed 25 Feb 2010
  10. Haraldsen TK, Pedersen PA, Grønlund A (2011) Mixtures of bottom wood ash and meat and bone meal as NPK fertilizer. In: Insam H, Knapp BA (eds) Recycling of biomass ashes. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 33–44Google Scholar
  11. Hedley J, Stewart J, Chauhan B (1982) Changes in inorganic and organic soil phosphorus fractions by cultivation practices and by laboratory incubations. Soil Sci Soc Am J 46:970–976CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hoffland E (1992) Quantitative evaluation of the role of organic acid exudation in the mobilization of rock phosphate by rape. Plant Soil 140:279–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hytönen J (2003) Effects of wood, peat and coal ash fertilization on Scots Pine foliar nutrient concentrations and growth on afforested former agricultural peat soils. Silva Fenn 37(2):219–234Google Scholar
  14. Ikpe FN, Powell JM (2002) Nutrient cycling practices and changes in soil properties in the crop-livestock farming systems of western Niger Republic of West Africa. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 62:37–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jamil M, Qasim M, Umar M, Subhan A (2004) Impact of organic wastes (bagasse ash) on the yield of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in a calcareous soil. Int J Agric Biol 6(3):468–470Google Scholar
  16. Kania A (2005) Regulation of phosphate deficiency-induced carboxylate exudation in cluster roots of white lupin (Lupinus albus L.). Dissertation, University of HohenheimGoogle Scholar
  17. Knapp BA, Insam H (2011) Recycling of biomass ashes – current technologies and future research needs. In: Insam H, Knapp BA (eds) Recycling of biomass ashes. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 1–16Google Scholar
  18. Krejsl JA, Scanlon TM (1996) Evaluation of beneficial use of wood-fired boiler ash on oat and bean growth. J Environ Qual 25:950–954CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lookman R, Vandeweert N, Merckx R, Vlassak K (1995) Geostatistical assessment of the regional distribution of phosphate sorption capacity parameters (Feox and Alox) in northern Belgium. Geoderma 66:285–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mandre M (2006) Influence of wood ash on soil chemical composition and biochemical parameters of young Scots pine. Proc Estonian Acad Sci Biol Ecol 55(2):91–107Google Scholar
  21. Mozaffari M, Russelle MP, Rosen CJ, Nater EA (2002) Nutrient supply and neutralizing value of alfalfa stem gasification ash. Soil Sci Soc Am J 66:171–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mullins GL, Sikora FJ (1995) Effect of soil pH on the requirement for water-soluble phosphorus in triple superphosphate fertilizers. Fertil Res 40:207–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Muse JK, Mitchell CC (1995) Paper mill boiler ash and lime by-products as soil liming materials. Agron J 87:432–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Neumann G (2007) Root exudates and nutrient cycling. In: Marschner P, Rengel Z (eds) Nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 123–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Neumann G, Römheld V (2002) Root-induced changes in the availability of nutrients in the rhizosphere. In: Waisel Y, Eshel A, Kafkafi U (eds) Plant roots – the hidden half, 3rd edn. Dekker, New York, pp 617–649Google Scholar
  26. Page AL, Miller RH, Keeney DR (1982) Methods of soil analysis. Agron no 9, part 2: chemical and microbiological properties, 2nd edn. American Society for Agronomy, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  27. Patterson SJ, Acharya SN, Thomas JE, Bertschi AB, Rothwell RL (2004) Integrated soil and crop management: barley biomass and grain yield and canola seed yield response to land application of wood ash. Agron J 96(4):971–977CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pearse SJ, Veneklaas EJ, Cawthray G, Bolland MD, Lambers H (2007) Carboxylate composition of root exudates does not relate consistently to a crop species’ ability to use phosphorus from aluminium, iron or calcium phosphate sources. New Phytol 173(1):181–190PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Phongpan S, Mosier AR (2003) Impact of organic residue management in nitrogen use efficiency in an annual rice cropping sequence of lowland central Thailand. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 66:233–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Saarsalmi A, Mälkönen E, Piirainen S (2001) Effects of wood ash fertilization on forest soil chemical properties. Silva Fenn 35(3):355–368Google Scholar
  31. Sander M-L, Andrén O (1997) Ash from cereal and rape straw used for heat production: liming effect and contents of plant nutrients and heavy metals. Water Air Soil Pollut 93:93–108Google Scholar
  32. Schilling G, Gransee A, Deubel A, Lezovic G, Ruppel S (1998) Phosphorus availability, root exudates, and microbial activity in the rhizosphere. Z Pflanzenernähr Bodenkd 161:465–478Google Scholar
  33. Schlichting A, Leinweber P, Meissner R, Altermann M (2002) Sequentially extracted phosphorus fractions in peat-derived soils. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 162:290–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schoumans OF (2000) Determination of the degree of phosphate saturation in non-calcarous soils. In: Pierzynski GM (ed) Methods for phosphorus analysis for soils, sediments, residuals, and water. Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin 396, North Carolina, pp 31–34Google Scholar
  35. Schwertmann U (1964) Differenzierung der Eisenoxide des Bodens durch Extraktion mit Ammoniumoxalatlösung. Z Pflanzenernähr Bodenkd 105:194–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Shen J, Rengel Z, Tang C, Zhang F (2003) Role of phosphorus nutrition in development of cluster roots and release of carboxylates in soil-grown Lupinus albus. Plant Soil 248:199–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Uckert GB (2004) Versuche zur landbaulichen Verwertung von Holzaschen unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Knickholzpotenziale Schleswig-Holsteins. Dissertation, University of KielGoogle Scholar
  38. Van der Paauw F (1971) An effective water extraction method for the determination of plant-available soil phosphorus. Plant Soil 34:467–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Van Ray B, Van Diest A (1979) Utilization of phosphate from sources by six plant species. Plant Soil 51:577–589CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Vance ED, Mitchell CC (2000) Beneficial use of wood ash as an agricultural soil amendment: case studies from the United States forest products industry. In: Power JF, Dick WA (eds) Land application of agricultural, industrial and municipal by-products. SSSA, Madison, pp 567–582Google Scholar
  41. Yusiharni BE (2001) An evaluation of chicken litter ash, wood ash and slag for use as lime and phosphate soil amendments. Master thesis, University of MataramGoogle Scholar
  42. Zhang F-S, Yamasaki S, Nanzyo M (2002) Waste ashes for use in agricultural production I. Liming effect, contents of plant nutrients and chemical characteristics of some metals. Sci Total Environ 284:215–225PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zhu Y-G, He Y-Q, Smith SE, Smith FA (2002) Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) has high capacity to take up phosphorus (P) from a calcium (Ca)-bound source. Plant Soil 239:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katja Schiemenz
    • 1
  • Jürgen Kern
    • 2
  • Hans-Marten Paulsen
    • 3
  • Silvia Bachmann
    • 1
  • Bettina Eichler-Löbermann
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental SciencesUniversity of RostockRostockGermany
  2. 2.Leibniz-Institut für Agrartechnik Potsdam-Bornim e.V.PotsdamGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Organic Farming vTITrenthorstGermany

Personalised recommendations