Biochar Reduces Short-Term Nitrate Leaching from A Horizon in an Apple Orchard.
ABSTRACT Nitrogen leaching in croplands is a worldwide problem with implications both on human health and on the environment. Efforts should be taken to increase nutrient use efficiency and minimize N losses from terrestrial to water ecosystems. Soil-applied biochar has been reported to increase soil fertility and decrease nutrient leaching in tropical soils and under laboratory conditions. Our objective was to evaluate the effect of biochar addition on short-term N leaching from A soil horizon in a mature apple orchard growing on subalkaline soils located in the Po Valley (Italy). In spring 2009, 10 Mg of biochar per hectare was incorporated into the surface 20-cm soil layer by soil plowing. Cumulative nitrate (NO) and ammonium (NH) leaching was measured in treated and control plots 4 mo after the addition of biochar and the following year by using ion-exchange resin lysimeters installed below the plowed soil layer. Cumulative NO leaching was not affected by biochar after 4 mo, whereas in the following year it was significantly ( < 0.05) reduced by 75% over the control (from 5.5 to 1.4 kg ha). Conversely, NH leaching was very low and unaffected by soil biochar treatment. The present study shows that soil biochar addition can significantly decrease short-term nitrate leaching from the surface layer of a subalkaline soil under temperate climatic conditions.
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ABSTRACT: Soil water status plays an important role in growth-yield and grape quality of Vitis vinifera (L.). In some cases, periods of moderate water stress have been indicated to exert a positive effect on the quality of grape production. However, prolonged water stress may have a strong negative affect grapevine photosynthesis and grape yield, especially in dry Mediterranean environments. Biochar is a co-product of a thermochemical conversion of biomass that is recognized to be a beneficial soil amendment, which when incorporated into the soil increases soil water retention. We investigated the effect of two rates of biochar application (22 and 44 ton ha−1) on plant water relations of V. vinifera in a field experiment in central Italy. Biochar obtained from the carbonization of orchard pruning waste was applied to the soil over two consecutive growing seasons. The treatments did not show a significant increase in soil hydrophobicity. Moreover, soil analysis and ecophysiological measurements indicated a substantial relative increases in available soil water content compared to control soils (from 3.2% to 45% in the 22 and 44 ton ha−1 application rates, respectively) and in leaf water potential (24–37%) during droughts.European Journal of Agronomy 01/2014; 53:38–44. · 2.80 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Biochar addition to soil has been suggested as a promising strategy to increase soil carbon storage with important side-effects on soil fertility and crop productivity. Understanding the effect of biochar on soil respiration partitioning into rhizosphere-derived (Fr) and soil organic carbon-derived (Fsoc) components and on plant root dynamics and microbial activity is a crucial issue in the prediction of the impact of biochar on soil organic carbon and nutrient cycles. Within this framework, an experiment was carried out in an apple (Malus domestica Bork) orchard located in the experimental farm of the Bologna University (Italy). In spring 2009, 10 t of biochar per hectare were incorporated into the surface 20-cm soil layer by soil ploughing. The trenching method was used in order to partition total soil respiration (Fs) into Fr and Fsoc components in both biochar-treated and control soil. Soil respiration measurements were performed from June 2009 to March 2011. To study root dynamics, polycarbonate boxes were built and buried into the soil. Soil profile pictures were collected fortnightly with a CCD sensor scanner inserted in the boxes and analysed with the WinRHIZO Tron MF software. Biochar addition increased Fsoc and reduced Fr, even if the root length intensity (La) increased in biochar-treated soils relative to that in the control. A decrease in root metabolic activity was postulated to explain these contrasting results.European Journal of Soil Science 01/2013; · 2.65 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Biochar production and subsequent soil incorporation could provide carbon farming solutions to global climate change and escalating food demand. There is evidence that biochar amendment causes fundamental changes in soil nutrient cycles, often resulting in marked increases in crop production, particularly in acidic and in infertile soils with low soil organic matter contents, although comparable outcomes in temperate soils are variable. We offer insight into the mechanisms underlying these findings by focusing attention on the soil nitrogen (N) cycle, specifically on hitherto unmeasured processes of organic N cycling in arable soils. We here investigated the impacts of biochar addition on soil organic and inorganic N pools and on gross transformation rates of both pools in a biochar field trial on arable land (Chernozem) in Traismauer, Lower Austria. We found that biochar increased total soil organic carbon but decreased the extractable organic C pool and soil nitrate. While gross rates of organic N transformation processes were reduced by 50-80%, gross N mineralization of organic N was not affected. In contrast, biochar promoted soil ammonia-oxidizer populations (bacterial and archaeal nitrifiers) and accelerated gross nitrification rates more than two-fold. Our findings indicate a de-coupling of the soil organic and inorganic N cycles, with a build-up of organic N, and deceleration of inorganic N release from this pool. The results therefore suggest that addition of inorganic fertilizer-N in combination with biochar could compensate for the reduction in organic N mineralization, with plants and microbes drawing on fertilizer-N for growth, in turn fuelling the belowground build-up of organic N. We conclude that combined addition of biochar with fertilizer-N may increase soil organic N in turn enhancing soil carbon sequestration and thereby could play a fundamental role in future soil management strategies.PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(1):e86388. · 3.53 Impact Factor