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Effects of biochar amendment in two soils on greenhouse gas emissions and crop production

Wang, Jinyang, Pan, Xiaojian, Liu, Yinglie, Zhang, Xiaolin, Xiong, Zhengqin
Plant and soil 2012 v.360 no.1-2 pp. 287-298
biochar, carbon dioxide, ecosystem respiration, fertilizer application, global warming, grain yield, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, greenhouse soils, methane, nitrates, nitrogen fertilizers, nitrous oxide, paddy soils, rice, upland soils, urea nitrogen, wheat
BACKGROUND: Worldwide, there is an increasing interest in using biochar in agriculture to help mitigate global warming and improve crop productivity. METHODS: The effects of biochar on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and rice and wheat yields were assessed using outdoor pot experiments in two different soils (upland soil vs. paddy soil) and an aerobic incubation experiment in the paddy soil. RESULTS: Biochar addition to the upland soil increased methane (CH4) emissions by 37 % during the rice season, while it had no effect on CH4 emissions during the wheat season. Biochar amendment decreased nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions up to 54 % and 53 % during the rice and wheat seasons, respectively, but had no effect on the ecosystem respiration in either crop season. In the aerobic incubation experiment, biochar addition significantly decreased N2O emissions and increased carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the paddy soil (P < 0.01) without urea nitrogen. Biochar addition increased grain yield and biomass if applied with nitrogen fertilizer. Averaged over the two soils, biochar amendments increased the production of rice and wheat by 12 % and 17 %, respectively, and these increases can be partly attributed to the increases in soil nitrate retention. CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrated that although biochar increased the global warming potential at high nitrogen fertilizer application, biochar incorporation significantly decreased N2O emissions while promoting crop production.