A quantitative review of the effects of biochar application to soils on crop productivity using meta-analysis

Increased crop yield is a commonly reported benefit of adding biochar to soils. However, experimental results are variable and dependent on the experimental set-up, soil properties and conditions, while causative mechanisms are yet to be fully elucidated. A statistical meta-analysis was undertaken with the aim of evaluating the relationship between biochar and crop productivity (either yield or above-ground biomass). Results showed an overall small, but statistically significant, benefit of biochar application to soils on crop productivity, with a grand mean increase of 10%. However, the mean results for each analysis performed within the meta-analysis covered a wide range (from 28% to 39%). The greatest (positive) effects with regard to soil analyses were seen in acidic (14%) and neutral pH soils (13%), and in soils with a coarse (10%) or medium texture (13%). This suggests that two of the main mechanisms for yield increase may be a liming effect and an improved water holding capacity of the soil, along with improved crop nutrient availability. The greatest positive result was seen in biochar applications at a rate of 100 t ha-1 (39%). Of the biochar feedstocks considered and in relation to crop productivity, poultry litter showed the strongest (significant) positive effect (28%), in contrast to biosolids, which were the only feedstock showing a statistically significant negative effect (-28%). However, many auxiliary data sets (i.e. information concerning co-variables) are incomplete and the full range of relevant soil types, as well as environmental and management conditions are yet to be investigated. Furthermore, only shortterm studies limited to periods of 1 to 2 years are currently available. This paper highlights the need for a strategic research effort, to allow elucidation of mechanisms, differentiated by environmental and management factors and to include studies over longer time frames.

Evaluating the evidence regarding the relationship between biochar and crop productivity, this MA shows an overall relatively small (approximately 10%) but statistically significant, positive effect of biochar application to soils on crop production. Such a result is robust and useful, as it provides a sound basis for the potential benefits of biochar use on crop productivity. However, it must be stressed that this should not be taken to imply that the random addition of biochar to a field anywhere in the world, will always lead to a small yield increase, nor does it provide any information about additional potential effects and consequences of such a practice (e.g. regarding the environmental regulation function of soils). It is worth stressing that this MA is not capable of predicting the longevity of effects of biochar addition to soil. In fact, this MA highlights the need for long-term experiments in order to include and quantify the influence of ageing of biochar in soil on the expected effects of its application on productivity.
The greatest positive effects were seen in biochar application rates of 100 t ha-1 (39%). Other positive effects were seen in acidic (14%) and neutral pH soils (13%), and in soils with a coarse (10%) or medium texture (13%). This suggests that two of the main mechanisms for yield improvement may be a liming effect and the influence on the water holding capacity of the soil.



Copyright: © ANS e.V. HAWK
Quelle: 73. Symposium 2012 (Oktober 2012)
Seiten: 24
Preis inkl. MwSt.: € 0,00
Autor: Dr. Simon Jeffrey
Frank G.A. Verheijen
M. van der Veldea
A.C. Bastosc

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