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Open AccessCommunication

Nutrient Loaded Biochar Doubled Biomass Production in Juvenile Maize Plants (Zea mays L.)

1
Institute of Bio- and Geosciences, IBG-2: Plant Sciences, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, 52425 Jülich, Germany
2
Department of Botany, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen, RWTH Aachen University, 52074 Aachen, Germany
3
Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Tropics and Subtropics Group, Universität Hohenheim, 70599 Stuttgart, Germany
4
Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (GSCAAS), Beijing 100081, China
5
Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Agronomy 2020, 10(4), 567; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10040567
Received: 23 March 2020 / Revised: 6 April 2020 / Accepted: 10 April 2020 / Published: 15 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Bioenergy Crops: Current Status and Future Prospects)
Biochars have long been associated with elevating plant productivity. An increasing number of studies, however, report that char application might also impair plant nutrient availability and reduce yields. In particular, char accompanying compounds as well as a hypothesized immobilization of nitrogen have been identified as playing a significant role in possibly diminishing plant productivity following char application. Herein, we tested the fertilizing effects of modified biochars in order to derive knowledge required to develop tailor-made chars, which predictably affect plant nutrition. Slow-pyrolysis maize cob biochar was modified by washing with either ethanol or hydrochloric acid to remove ash and organic compounds or by loading it with nutrient-rich residues in the form of digestate from the bioenergy sector. Maize plants were grown for 35 days on biochar-amended sand. We analyzed both substrate properties (pH, total carbon, and nitrogen, available magnesium and potassium) and plant functional traits (biomass, leaf area, root to shoot ratio, specific leaf area). Our results suggest that total plant biomass production remained unaffected by the application of biochar and its washed forms. Contrastingly, nutrient-loaded biochar induced a significant increase in productivity at similar nutrient levels due to improved plant nutrient uptake. Further research is required to understand the role of biochar modifications that facilitated improvements in plant productivity. View Full-Text
Keywords: loaded biochar; biogas digestate; plant functional traits; ash-free biochar; labile compound free biochar; slow-release fertilizer loaded biochar; biogas digestate; plant functional traits; ash-free biochar; labile compound free biochar; slow-release fertilizer
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Dietrich, C.C.; Rahaman, M.A.; Robles-Aguilar, A.A.; Latif, S.; Intani, K.; Müller, J.; Jablonowski, N.D. Nutrient Loaded Biochar Doubled Biomass Production in Juvenile Maize Plants (Zea mays L.). Agronomy 2020, 10, 567.

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