Special Issue "Impact of Biochar and Compost on Soil Quality and Crop Yield"

A special issue of Agronomy (ISSN 2073-4395). This special issue belongs to the section "Soil and Plant Nutrition".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 April 2021).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Tomasz Głąb
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Machinery Exploitation, Ergonomics and Production Processes, University of Agriculture in Krakow, ul. Balicka 116B, 31-149 Krakow, Poland
Interests: soil physics; soil water retention; grassland; turfgrass; organic soil amendments; root morphology; organic farming

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

It is widely recognized that composting and pyrolysis are two processes for reducing organic waste storage, with products used as soil amendments. Compost application has a beneficial impact on the physical, chemical and biological properties of soils that is reflected in crop yields. However, compost application creates some risks, e.g., water repellency or heavy metal contamination, especially when municipal wastes or sewage sludge are used as feedstock. During the past decade, biochar has been recognized as a very promising soil amendment, resulting in higher soil quality and carbon sequestration. Biochar is characterized by high sorption capacity, which benefits plants by reducing the availability of heavy metals in soil. However, the high sorption of biochar may result in nutrient deficiency and further inhibition of plant growth. Little information is available concerning the long-term effects of compost and biochar application; the effects of their combined usage (including co-composting); and the interactions between feedstocks, soil characteristics and crop species.

This Special Issue will focus on the “Impact of Biochar and Compost on Soil Quality and Crop Yield”. Original research, reviews, or opinions on compost, biochar, compost–biochar mixtures or the application of their co-composting products in crop production are welcome. Long-term experiments and field trials with different soils or crops are exceptionally valuable.

Dr. Tomasz Głąb
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Waste management
  • Biomass
  • Municipal wastes
  • Pyrolysis
  • Co-composting
  • Soil quality
  • Crop production

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Article
Dynamic of Morphological and Physiological Parameters and Variation of Soil Characteristics during Miscanthus × giganteus Cultivation in the Diesel-Contaminated Land
Agronomy 2021, 11(4), 798; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11040798 - 18 Apr 2021
Viewed by 497
Abstract
Miscanthus × giganteus (M. × giganteus) is a perspective plant produced on marginal and contaminated lands with biomass used for energy or bioproducts. In the current study, M. × giganteus development was tested in the diesel-contaminated soils (ranged from 250 mg [...] Read more.
Miscanthus × giganteus (M. × giganteus) is a perspective plant produced on marginal and contaminated lands with biomass used for energy or bioproducts. In the current study, M. × giganteus development was tested in the diesel-contaminated soils (ranged from 250 mg kg−1 to 5000 mg kg−1) and the growth dynamic, leaves quantity, plants total area, number of harvested stems and leaves, SPAD and NPQt parameters were evaluated. Results showed a remarkable M. × giganteus growth in a selected interval of diesel-contaminated soil with sufficient harvested biomass. The amendment of soil by biochar 1 (produced from wastewater sludge) and biochar 2 (produced from a mixture of wood waste and biohumus) improved the crop’s morphological and physiological parameters. Biochar 1 stimulated the increase of the stems’ biomass, while biochar 2 increased the leaves biomass. The plants growing in the uncontaminated soil decreased the content of NO3, pH (KCl), P2O5 and increased the content of NH4. Photosynthesis parameters showed that incorporating biochar 1 and biochar 2 to the diesel-contaminated soil prolonged the plants’ vegetation, which was more potent for biochar 1. M. × giganteus utilization united with biochar amendment can be recommended to remediate diesel-contaminated land in concentration range 250–5000 mg kg−1. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Biochar and Compost on Soil Quality and Crop Yield)
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Article
Biochar and Its Effects on Plant–Soil Macronutrient Cycling during a Three-Year Field Trial on Sandy Soil with Peppermint (Mentha piperita L.). Part I: Yield and Macro Element Content in Soil and Plant Biomass
Agronomy 2020, 10(12), 1950; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10121950 - 12 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 655
Abstract
Pyrolyzed organic residues can be incorporated as a soil additive to improve their properties, crop productivity, or to increase retention or absorption of different compounds. However, in agronomy, the practice of biochar application is still under examination. The interactions between plant, soil, and [...] Read more.
Pyrolyzed organic residues can be incorporated as a soil additive to improve their properties, crop productivity, or to increase retention or absorption of different compounds. However, in agronomy, the practice of biochar application is still under examination. The interactions between plant, soil, and biochar can be complex, and determines the agronomic effects obtained. A three-year field experiment was conducted to determine the effects of biochar addition and nitrogen (N) fertilization on biomass productivity and nutrient uptake of Mentha piperita L. The experiment was conducted with a three-factorial design in triplicate at N fertilizer rates of 75, 100, and 125 kg N ha−1 and biochar rates of 0, 5, 15, and 45 t ha−1. Commercial wood-based biochar produced at 650 °C was incorporated into sandy soil in 2017. Generally, our results demonstrated potential for treating a sandy soil, since biochar improved the nutrient availability for peppermint. However, on average, during a three-year mint-yielding period, no significant effect of the applied dose of biochar on this parameter was found. Significantly more soluble Ca, K, and SO4-S was found in the soil amended with biochar as compared with the control soil. Biochar, in doses of 15 and 45 t ha−1, increased the NH4-N concentration in the soil in the second and third year of the study, as well as NO3-N in 2018. The greatest amount of N and P was contained in the peppermint biomass after using 15 and 45 t biochar ha−1. The highest dose of biochar (45 t ha−1) also increased the contents of K and S in plants. Nitrogen fertilization increased the dry matter yield of peppermint on the harvest sampling dates. The N content in the mint increased proportionally to the nitrogen dose in fertilization, regardless of the biochar dose applied. The use of biochar in doses of 15 and 45 t ha−1 in coarse-textured soil contributed to increased use of nitrogen by plants after nitrogen fertilization at doses of 100 and 125 kg N ha−1. These findings suggest that the time-dependent responses of soil to biochar amendment are strongly influenced by plant, microbial, and soil feedback; if so, then practical long-term biochar effectiveness requires further study. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Biochar and Compost on Soil Quality and Crop Yield)
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Article
Biochar Alters Soil Physical Characteristics, Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Colonization, and Glomalin Production
Agronomy 2020, 10(12), 1933; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10121933 - 09 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1037
Abstract
Soil enhancements such as biochar (BC) are gaining attention as tools to mitigate climate change and also to promote crop growth. However, biochar use can disrupt soil ecosystems by changing the soil’s physical, chemical, and biological properties. The study aimed to determine how [...] Read more.
Soil enhancements such as biochar (BC) are gaining attention as tools to mitigate climate change and also to promote crop growth. However, biochar use can disrupt soil ecosystems by changing the soil’s physical, chemical, and biological properties. The study aimed to determine how biochar influences soil physical changes such as specific surface area (SSA) and water vapor sorption, and how these conditions affect arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) hyphae growth and glomalin production. The study analyzed these factors at different plant phenological phases (i.e., flowering, development of fruit, and ripening of fruit and seed) to better understand the changes within the system while varying biochar amounts. The study also investigated the effect of different soil physical and chemical parameters on mycorrhizal hyphae growth and glomalin production. Four treatments were investigated: 0, 0.5%, 2.5%, and 5.0% (w/w) biochar amended silt loam soil planted with pepper. Soil samples were taken at the beginning and weeks 6, 10, and 12 of the study. The amount of adsorbed water vapor increased with an increasing amount of biochar added to the soils. Compared to control, SSA was significantly higher in all biochar amended treatments based on adsorption data, and only in the highest biochar amended soils for the desorption data at the end of the experiment. The presence of AMF in the roots appeared at week 6 of the experiment and the intensity of AMF root colonization increased with the age of plants. The AMF colonization parameters were significantly lower in BC2.5 compared to all other biochar amended soils. The abundance of intraradical AMF structures was highly correlated with several physicochemical soil parameters, such as SSA, the geometric mean diameter of soil aggregate, soil aggregate sizes, or pH. Glomalin production was negatively correlated with SSA, water vapor adsorption, aggregate stability, aggregate size, total nitrogen, potassium, and organic carbon content of the soil, while positive correlation was observed with bulk density. Increased biochar amount resulted in a significant decrease in glomalin production, concurrent with the age of the plants. Our results highlight the great complexity of interactions between soil physicochemical and biological parameters, and the importance of the time of sampling when biochar is used in soil, as the effects of biochar additions on the plant, soil physical characteristics, and soil microsymbionts vary over time. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Biochar and Compost on Soil Quality and Crop Yield)
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Article
The Effect of Various Types of Biochar Mixed with Mineral Fertilization on the Development and Ionome of Winter Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) Seedlings and Soil Properties in a Pot Experiment
Agronomy 2020, 10(12), 1903; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10121903 - 02 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 577
Abstract
This paper focuses on the agronomic evaluation of a synthetic NPK (N in the form of urea, P and K in the form of phosphate monopotassium) fertilizers blended with four types of pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) wood biochar prepared at different thermal [...] Read more.
This paper focuses on the agronomic evaluation of a synthetic NPK (N in the form of urea, P and K in the form of phosphate monopotassium) fertilizers blended with four types of pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) wood biochar prepared at different thermal regimes (300 °C, 400 °C, 600 °C and 700 °C). The evaluation of benefits was done based on crop nutritional status and soil fertility. The pot experiment was set up with fertile Haplic Luvisol fertilized with 1.85 g kg−1 of blends of biochar (1.25 g) with urea (310 mg) and KH2PO4 (290 mg), which is equivalent to 500 kg ha−1 (biochar ~67.6%; N ~7.8%; P ~3.6%; K ~4.7%) applied before sowing. Only NPK blends made with biochar containing 75% or 85% carbon increased the biomass of 27-day old wheat seedlings from 12% to 20% in comparison to NPK applied alone. These blends raised the content of Mn and Fe in plants but decreased the contents of Ca and Mg. All the tested mixtures enhanced soil fertility by increasing the content of humic acids. Additionally, the content of potentially phytotoxic phenolic compounds was lower. In general, the addition of biochar to NPK fertilizer did not show a negative effect on crop quality. The overall results of the study suggest that the application of low doses of biochar to synthetic fertilizer can benefit crops and can support soil fertility. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Biochar and Compost on Soil Quality and Crop Yield)
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Article
Effects of Straw and Biochar Amendments on Grassland Productivity and Root Morphology
Agronomy 2020, 10(11), 1794; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10111794 - 16 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 707
Abstract
The objective of this research was to determine the effect of straw and biochar amendment on the root system morphology and aboveground biomass of a red clover/grass mixture (Lolium. perenne L., Phleum pratense L., Festuca pratensis Huds., F. arundinacea Schreb., L. multiflorum [...] Read more.
The objective of this research was to determine the effect of straw and biochar amendment on the root system morphology and aboveground biomass of a red clover/grass mixture (Lolium. perenne L., Phleum pratense L., Festuca pratensis Huds., F. arundinacea Schreb., L. multiflorum L., L. westerwoldicum Breakw., Trifolium pratense L.). A grassland experiment was conducted from 2014 to 2018. Straw was collected from miscanthus (Miscanthus × giganteus), winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), and biochar was produced from the biomass of those species. The following treatments were applied: wheat straw at a rate of 5 t ha−1 (WS), miscanthus straw at a rate of 5 t ha−1 (MS), wheat biochar at a rate of 5 t ha−1 (WBH), wheat biochar at a rate of 2.25 t ha−1 (WBL), miscanthus biochar at a rate of 5 t ha−1 (MBH), and miscanthus biochar at a rate of 2.25 t ha−1 (MBL). A treatment with mineral fertilizer but without organic amendments (MCTR) was used, and a control treatment (CTR) without mineral fertilizer and without any amendments was also tested. The botanical composition and the aboveground yields were determined. The roots were sampled in 2018, and the root morphology parameters were determined using an image analysis system. The applied soil amendments resulted in increased root lengths, surface areas, volumes, and mean root diameters. There were no differences between the treatments with different feedstock types (miscanthus vs. wheat), materials (straw vs. biochar), or amendment rates (5 vs. 2.25 t ha−1). The resulting root system characteristics were reflected in the aboveground biomass productivity. The soil amendments, i.e., the straw and biochar, significantly increased the productivity in comparison to that of the control treatment. However, these differences were noticed only during the first and second cuts. Recommended practice in grassland management is to improve soil with straw. The conversion of straw into biochar does not provide a better effect on grassland productivity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Biochar and Compost on Soil Quality and Crop Yield)
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Article
Fertility Impact of Separate and Combined Treatments with Biochar, Sewage Sludge Compost and Bacterial Inocula on Acidic Sandy Soil
Agronomy 2020, 10(10), 1612; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10101612 - 21 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 772
Abstract
The short-term effects of processed waste materials: sewage sludge compost (up to 0.5%), biochar made of paper sludge and grain husk (BC) (up to 2%) combined with plant growth-promoting rhizobacterial (PGPR) inoculum, on the fertility of acidic sandy soil at 65% of field [...] Read more.
The short-term effects of processed waste materials: sewage sludge compost (up to 0.5%), biochar made of paper sludge and grain husk (BC) (up to 2%) combined with plant growth-promoting rhizobacterial (PGPR) inoculum, on the fertility of acidic sandy soil at 65% of field capacity were tested in a pot experiment in separate and combined treatments. The soil pH, organic matter content, total and plant-available nutrients, substrate-induced respiration, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal (AMF) root colonisation parameters and maize (Zea mays L.) biomass were investigated in experiments lasting two months. The positive priming (21% organic matter loss) induced by BC alone was not observed after combined application. The combination of compost and PGPR with 1.5% BC resulted in 35% higher P and K availability due to greater microbial activity compared to BC alone. Only compost applied alone at 0.5% gave a 2.7 times increase in maize biomass. The highest microbial activity and lowest AMF colonisation were found in combined treatments. In the short term the combined application of BC, compost and PGPR did not result in higher fertility on the investigated soil. Further research is needed with a wider range of combined treatments on acidic sandy soil for better understanding of the process. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Biochar and Compost on Soil Quality and Crop Yield)
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Article
10-Years Studies of the Soil Physical Condition after One-Time Biochar Application
Agronomy 2020, 10(10), 1589; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10101589 - 16 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 603
Abstract
The ten-year experiment on the soil physical properties of biochar-amended Podzol was studied. Biochar was applied to the soil in the following rates: treatment BC10—10 Mg × ha−1, treatment BC20—20 Mg × ha−1, treatment BC30—30 Mg × ha−1 [...] Read more.
The ten-year experiment on the soil physical properties of biochar-amended Podzol was studied. Biochar was applied to the soil in the following rates: treatment BC10—10 Mg × ha−1, treatment BC20—20 Mg × ha−1, treatment BC30—30 Mg × ha−1 and treatment BC0—Control (soil without the addition of biochar). Biochar was mixed the soil arable layer (0–20 cm). Soil samples were collected ten times, once a year—after harvest rye. They were taken from layers: 0–10 cm and 10–20 cm, in six replicates, using 100 cm3 metal cylinders. The soil physical properties were determined: particle size distribution, particle density, bulk density, total porosity, air capacity and permeability (at −15.5 kPa), water content at sampling, field water capacity (at −15.5 kPa), available and unavailable water content, and the ratio of field water capacity and total porosity was calculated. It was found that biochar application causes changes in the soil physical condition. The soil density decreased, while the porosity, aeration and water retention increased; the ratio of field water capacity and total porosity was favorable. These changes cannot be considered as permanent. Most of the analyzed properties showed a durability of no more than 3–4 years. We found that biochar incorporation into soil is a good method for environmental management of waste biomass. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Biochar and Compost on Soil Quality and Crop Yield)
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Article
Pyrolysis Improves the Effect of Straw Amendment on the Productivity of Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.)
Agronomy 2020, 10(10), 1455; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10101455 - 23 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 562
Abstract
The use of straw as a soil amendment is a well-known and recommended agronomy practice, but it can lead to negative effects on the soil and crop yield. It has been hypothesized that many problems related to the burying of straw can be [...] Read more.
The use of straw as a soil amendment is a well-known and recommended agronomy practice, but it can lead to negative effects on the soil and crop yield. It has been hypothesized that many problems related to the burying of straw can be overcome by pyrolyzing it. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of straw and its biochar on the biomass production of perennial ryegrass. A pot-based experiment was conducted with three factors: (i) the crop species used as feedstock, (ii) raw or pyrolyzed organic material, and (iii) the rate of organic amendments. The soil in the pots was amended with straw and biochar produced from Miscanthus (Miscanthus × giganteus) or winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). After soil amendment application, perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) seeds were sown. During two years of the experiment, the perennial ryegrass above-ground biomass production and root biomass and morphology parameters were determined. Straw and biochar resulted in higher perennial ryegrass above-ground biomass compared with that of the non-fertilized control. However, straw amendment resulted in lower plant yields of above-ground biomass than those of the biochar treatments or the mineral fertilizer control treatment. The feedstock type (Miscanthus or wheat) significantly affected the perennial ryegrass yield. No difference was observed among wheat and Miscanthus biochar, while among straws, Miscanthus resulted in lower perennial ryegrass productivity (the higher rate of straw and biochar as soil amendments resulted in relatively high perennial ryegrass productivity). The organic amendments resulted in relatively high root biomass and length. The root:shoot ratio was lower in the treatments in which biochar was used, whereas feedstock species and amendment rate were not statistically significant for any of the root biomass and morphometric parameters. The results suggest that the use of pyrolyzed straw can be a reliable strategy instead of straw, increasing ryegrass growth and productivity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Biochar and Compost on Soil Quality and Crop Yield)
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Article
Potential of Biochar to Alternate Soil Properties and Crop Yields 3 and 4 Years after the Application
Agronomy 2020, 10(6), 889; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10060889 - 22 Jun 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 842
Abstract
Several studies have reported that biochar can improve soil properties which are linked with higher crop yields and this effect is long-term. This paper aimed to study the effects of biochar (0, 10 and 20 t ha−1) and its combinations with [...] Read more.
Several studies have reported that biochar can improve soil properties which are linked with higher crop yields and this effect is long-term. This paper aimed to study the effects of biochar (0, 10 and 20 t ha−1) and its combinations with N-fertilization (zero, first and second level of N-fertilization) after 3 and 4 years of its application on improving soil characteristics of loamy Haplic Luvisol and crop yields (Dolná Malanta, Slovakia). The results indicated an increase in soil pH (+7%), improvement in sorption properties (hydrolytic acidity decreased by 11%, sum of basic cations and base saturation increased by 20% and 5%, respectively) and soil organic carbon rose by 27% with increasing biochar rate in the soil. N-fertilization applied to biochar treatments was a stabilizing moment in C sequestration even in the case of its labile forms. Overall, humus stability and quality were not significantly changed, however in biochar treatments without N-fertilization, the humus stability and quality decreased 3 and 4 years after biochar application. Yield parameters differed with relation to climate conditions during both vegetation crop seasons, however the combination of 20 t ha−1 of biochar with the first and second level of N-fertilization had the highest potential to increase the grain yield. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Biochar and Compost on Soil Quality and Crop Yield)
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Article
Effects of ZnO Nanoparticles and Biochar of Rice Straw and Cow Manure on Characteristics of Contaminated Soil and Sunflower Productivity, Oil Quality, and Heavy Metals Uptake
Agronomy 2020, 10(6), 790; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10060790 - 02 Jun 2020
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 1068
Abstract
Contaminated soils can cause a potential risk into the health of the environment and soil as well as the quality and productivity of plants. The objectives of our study were to investigate the integrative advantageous effects of foliar ZnO nanoparticles (NPs) (60 mg [...] Read more.
Contaminated soils can cause a potential risk into the health of the environment and soil as well as the quality and productivity of plants. The objectives of our study were to investigate the integrative advantageous effects of foliar ZnO nanoparticles (NPs) (60 mg Zn NPs L−1), rice straw biochar (RSB; 8.0 t ha−1), cow-manure biochar (CMB, 8.0 t ha−1), and a combination thereof (50% of each) on sunflowers grown in agricultural land irrigated with polluted wastewater for the long term (≈50 years). The availability of heavy metals (HMs) in soil, HMs accumulation in whole biomass aboveground, growth, productivity, and quality characteristics of the sunflower were investigated. The combination treatment significantly minimized the availability of HMs in soil, and, consequently, substantially lessened the uptake of HMs by the sunflower, compared to treatments of ZnO NPs and control (i.e., untreated soil). The application of the combination treatment reduced the availability of Pb, Cr, Cu, and Cd in the soil by 78.6%, 115.3%, 153.3%, and 178.5% in comparison to untreated plots post-harvest, respectively. Compared to untreated plots, it also reduced the Pb, Cr, Cu, and Cd in plant biomass by 1.13, 5.19, 3.88, and 0.26 mg kg−1 DM, respectively. Furthermore, combination treatment followed by biochar as an individual application caused a significant improvement in sunflower productivity and quality in comparison to untreated soil. For instance, seed yield ha−1, 100-seed weight, and number of seeds per head obtained from the combination treatment was greater than the results obtained from the untreated plots by 42.6%, 47.0%, and 50.4%, respectively. In summary, the combined treatment of NPs and both RSB and CMB is recommended as a result of their positive influence on sunflower oil quality and yield as well as on minimizing the negative influences of HMs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Biochar and Compost on Soil Quality and Crop Yield)
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