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Agronomy 2017, 7(1), 13; doi:10.3390/agronomy7010013

Is There a Positive Synergistic Effect of Biochar and Compost Soil Amendments on Plant Growth and Physiological Performance?

Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto, 33 Willcocks Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3B3, Canada
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Academic Editor: Lukas Van Zwieten
Received: 31 December 2016 / Revised: 25 January 2017 / Accepted: 7 February 2017 / Published: 11 February 2017
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Abstract

The combination of biochar (BC) with compost has been suggested to be a promising strategy to promote plant growth and performance, but although “synergistic” effects have been stated to occur, full-factorial experiments are few, and explicit tests for synergism are lacking. We tested the hypothesis that a combination of BC and spent mushroom substrate (SMS) has a positive synergistic effect on plant growth and physiological performance in a nutrient-limited growing media. A greenhouse experiment with a full factorial design was conducted using mixed-wood BC (3.0 kg·m−2) and SMS (1.5 kg·m−2) (the combination was not co-composted) as organic soil amendments for the annual Abutilon theophrasti and the perennial Salix purpurea. Several measurements related to plant growth and physiological performance were taken throughout the experiment. Contrary to the hypothesis, we found that the combination of BC + SMS had neutral or antagonistic interactive effects on many plant growth traits. Antagonistic effects were found on maximum leaf area, above- and belowground biomass, reproductive allocation, maximum plant height, chlorophyll fluorescence, and stomatal conductance of A. theophrasti. The effect on S. purpurea was mostly neutral. We conclude that the generalization that BC and compost have synergistic effects on plant performance is not supported. View Full-Text
Keywords: biochar; compost; spent mushroom substrate; soil amendments; synergistic effects; Abutilon theophrasti; Salix purpurea biochar; compost; spent mushroom substrate; soil amendments; synergistic effects; Abutilon theophrasti; Salix purpurea
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Seehausen, M.L.; Gale, N.V.; Dranga, S.; Hudson, V.; Liu, N.; Michener, J.; Thurston, E.; Williams, C.; Smith, S.M.; Thomas, S.C. Is There a Positive Synergistic Effect of Biochar and Compost Soil Amendments on Plant Growth and Physiological Performance? Agronomy 2017, 7, 13.

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