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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Special Section: Environmental Benefits of Biochar

Biochar and Manure Affect Calcareous Soil and Corn Silage Nutrient Concentrations and Uptake


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 41 No. 4, p. 1033-1043
    Received: Apr 4, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): rick.lentz@ars.usda.gov
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  1. R. D. Lentz *a and
  2. J. A. Ippolito
  1. a USDA–ARS, Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Lab., 3793 N 3600 E, Kimberly, ID 83341. Assigned to Associate Editor Denis Angers


Carbon-rich biochar derived from the pyrolysis of biomass can sequester atmospheric CO2, mitigate climate change, and potentially increase crop productivity. However, research is needed to confirm the suitability and sustainability of biochar application to different soils. To an irrigated calcareous soil, we applied stockpiled dairy manure (42 Mg ha−1 dry wt) and hardwood-derived biochar (22.4 Mg ha−1), singly and in combination with manure, along with a control, yielding four treatments. Nitrogen fertilizer was applied when needed (based on preseason soil test N and crop requirements) in all plots and years, with N mineralized from added manure included in this determination. Available soil nutrients (NH4–N; NO3–N; Olsen P; and diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid–extractable K, Mg, Na, Cu, Mn, Zn, and Fe), total C (TC), total N (TN), total organic C (TOC), and pH were evaluated annually, and silage corn nutrient concentration, yield, and uptake were measured over two growing seasons. Biochar treatment resulted in a 1.5-fold increase in available soil Mn and a 1.4-fold increase in TC and TOC, whereas manure produced a 1.2- to 1.7-fold increase in available nutrients (except Fe), compared with controls. In 2009 biochar increased corn silage B concentration but produced no yield increase; in 2010 biochar decreased corn silage TN (33%), S (7%) concentrations, and yield (36%) relative to controls. Manure produced a 1.3-fold increase in corn silage Cu, Mn, S, Mg, K, and TN concentrations and yield compared with the control in 2010. The combined biochar-manure effects were not synergistic except in the case of available soil Mn. In these calcareous soils, biochar did not alter pH or availability of P and cations, as is typically observed for acidic soils. If the second year results are representative, they suggest that biochar applications to calcareous soils may lead to reduced N availability, requiring additional soil N inputs to maintain yield targets.

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