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Assessing the viability of soil successive straw biochar amendment based on a five-year column trial with six different soils: Views from crop production, carbon sequestration and net ecosystem economic benefits

Bi, Yucui, Cai, Siyuan, Wang, Yu, Xia, Yongqiu, Zhao, Xu, Wang, Shenqiang, Xing, Guangxi
Journal of environmental management 2019 v.245 pp. 173-186
NPK fertilizers, agricultural land, agroecosystems, application rate, biochar, carbon dioxide, carbon sequestration, crop rotation, financial economics, global warming potential, grain yield, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, intensive cropping, methane, nitrous oxide, paddy soils, prices, rice straw, soil fertility, soil organic carbon, soil treatment, trade, upland soils, viability, China
Converting straw to biochar (BC) followed by successive application to soil has been increasingly suggested as a multi-win approach for soil fertility improvement, carbon (C) sequestration and efficient disposal of straw residues in intensive cropping agroecosystems. However, different soil types response differently in terms of crop growth and non-CO₂ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions after BC application. Furthermore, few studies have comprehensively evaluated the net global warming potential (GWP) and net ecosystem economic benefits (NEEB) after long-term BC incorporation across representative soil types in China. A five-year outdoor column experiment was conducted using three rice-wheat rotated paddy soils and three millet-wheat rotated upland soils developed from different parent materials. Rice straw BC application rates of 0, 2.25 and 11.3 Mg ha⁻¹ were used in each crop season with identical doses of NPK fertilizers. Compared with the no BC controls, BC significantly boosted crop growth, enhanced C sequestration, and decreased cumulative N₂O and CH₄ emissions in all six soils over five rotation cycles. The response of the upland soils to BC was better in terms of crop growth and N₂O mitigation, whereas the soil organic carbon (SOC) increment and CH₄ mitigation were less effective compared with the paddy soils. Net GWP decreased 0.6–19 fold after BC application; however, given the low trade price of CO₂ (0.21 × 10³ CNY Mg⁻¹), only a small contribution was made in terms of C costs to the NEEB. The BC-induced NEEB was mainly dependent on grain yield gains and BC costs. These findings highlight that widespread adoption of successive straw BC application to farmland requires an increase in crop yield and substantial lowering of the BC cost regardless of the soil type. From the standpoints of agronomics, environment and economics, acid upland soil shows most potential in terms of BC application.