Pedosphere 24(6): 699--708, 2014
ISSN 1002-0160/CN 32-1315/P
©2014 Soil Science Society of China
Published by Elsevier B.V. and Science Press
Effect of biochar addition on maize growth and nitrogen use efficiency in acidic red soils
ZHU Qiao-Hong1,2, PENG Xin-Hua1, HUANG Tai-Qing1, XIE Zu-Bin1 and N. M. HOLDEN3
1State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing 210008 (China)
2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049(China)
3UCD School of Biosystems Engineering, Agriculture and Food Science Centre, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4 (Ireland)
ABSTRACT
      Biochar added to soil can improve crop growth through both direct and indirect effects, particularly in acidic, highly weathered soils in subtropical and tropical regions. However, the mechanisms of biochar improving crop growth are not well understood. The objectives of this study were i) to determine the crop responses to biochar addition and ii) to understand the effect of biochar addition on N use efficiency. Seven acidic red soils varying in texture, pH, and soil nutrient were taken from southern China and subjected to four treatments: zero biochar and fertilizer as a control (CK), 10 g kg-1 biochar (BC), NPK fertilizers (NPK), and 10 g kg-1 biochar plus NPK fertilizers (BC+NPK). 15N-labeled fertilizer was used as a tracer to assess N use efficiency. After a 46-d pot experiment, biochar addition increased soil pH and available P, and decreased soil exchangable Al3+, but did not impact soil availabe N and cation exchange capacity (P > 0.05). The N use efficiency and N retained in the soil were not significantly affected by biochar application except for the soil with the lowest available P (3.81 mg kg-1) and highest exchanageable Al3+ (4.54 cmol kg-1). Greater maize biomass was observed in all soils amended with biochar compared to soils without biochar (BC vs. CK, BC+NPK vs. NPK). This agronomic effect was negatively related to the concentration of soil exchangeable Al3+ (P < 0.1). The results of this study implied that the liming effect of biochar improved plant growth through alleviating Al toxicity and P deficiency, especially in poor acidic red soils.
Key Words:  agronomic effect, Al toxicity, liming effect, 15N labeling, P deficiency
Citation: Zhu, Q. H., Peng, X. H., Huang, T. Q., Xie, Z. B. and Holden, N. M. 2014. Effect of biochar addition on maize growth and nitrogen use efficiency in acidic red soils. Pedosphere. 24(6): 699-708.
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