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The effect of biochar loading rates on soil fertility, soil biomass, potential nitrification, and soil community metabolic profiles in three different soils
Purpose: Biochar is increasingly being used as a soil amendment to both increase soil carbon storage and improve soil chemical and biological properties. To better understand the shorter-term (10 months) impacts of biochar on selected soil parameters and biological process in three different textured soils, a wide range of loading rates was applied.
Materials and methods: Biochar derived from eucalypt green waste was mixed at 0, 2.5, 5, 10 % (wt/wt) with a reactive black clay loam (BCL), a non-reactive red loam (RL) and a brown sandy loam (BSL) and placed in pots exposed to the natural elements. After 10 months of incubation, analysis was performed to determine the impacts of the biochar rates on the different soil types. Also, microbial biomass was estimated by the total viable counts (TVC) and DNA extraction. Moreover, potential nitrification rate and community metabolic profiles were assayed to evaluate microbial function and biological process in biochar-amended soils.
Results and discussion: The results showed that biochar additions had a significant impact on NH4 and NO3, total C and N, pH, EC, and soil moisture content in both a soil type and loading-dependent manner. In the heavier and reactive BCL, no significant impact was observed on the available P and K levels, or the total exchangeable base cations (TEB) and CEC. However, in the other lighter soils, biochar addition had a significant effect on the exchangeable Al, Ca, Mg, and Na levels and CEC. There was a relatively limited effect on microbial biomass in amended soils; however, biochar additions and its interactions with different soils reduced the potential nitrification at the higher biochar rate in the two lighter soils. Community metabolic profile results showed that the effect of biochar on carbon substrate utilization was both soil type and loading dependent. The BCL and BSL showed reduced rates of substrate utilization as biochar loading levels increased while the opposite occurred for the RL.
Conclusions: This research shows that biochar can improve soil carbon levels and raise pH but varies with soil type. High biochar loading rates may also influence nitrification and the function and activity of microbial community in lighter soils.
Publication titleJournal of Soils and Sediments
Department/SchoolTasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)
Place of publicationGermany
Rights statementCopyright 2016 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg