Research Highlights: We find that biochar plus fertilizer has synergistic and positive effects on seedling growth and robustness, but slightly lowers early seedling survival. Biochar plus fertilizer has the potential to greatly decrease costs associated with afforestation as compared to traditional fertilization and gives better results. Background and Objectives: Biochar can improve soil fertility and plant yield in crops. However, there is little information regarding the effects of biochar on trees, even though reforestation/afforestation projects are increasing and are often unsuccessful due to soil fertility limitations. This study aims to increase knowledge of biochar use as a reforestation tool. Materials and Methods: We measured survival and growth in an early ((Guazuma crinita
= 240])) and a late (Terminalia amazonia
(J.F. Gmel.) Exell. [n
= 240]) successional species under 6 different biochar treatments in a 6-month nursery experiment. Results: (i) Survival was highest in the 1 t/ha biochar treatment, while treatments containing fertilizers or biochar at 5 t/ha lowered the survival rate of both species compared to the control; (ii) simultaneous addition of biochar and fertilizer lead to significant increases in height, diameter, total number of leaves, and aboveground and belowground biomass of both species as compared to other treatments; (iii) biochar treatment containing 1 t/ha with and without fertilizer showed significantly better results than applications of 5 t/ha; and (iv) Guazuma crinita
responded more strongly to treatments containing biochar and fertilizers compared to Terminalia amazonia
, which is suggestive of greater synergetic effects of biochar and fertilizer addition on early successional tree species. Conclusions: Applying biochar and fertilizer is synergistic and outperforms any single treatment, as well as the control, in terms of plant performance. This case study suggests that biochar can greatly improve reforestation/afforestation projects by increasing plant performance while substantially reducing fertilizer and labor maintenance costs. Field experiments and testing of additional species is needed to generalize the findings.
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