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N use efficiencies and N2O emissions in two contrasting, biochar amended soils under winter wheat-cover crop-sorghum rotation

Hüppi, Roman; Neftel, Albrecht; Lehmann, Moritz F.; Krauss, Maike; Six, Johan and Leifeld, Jens (2016) N use efficiencies and N2O emissions in two contrasting, biochar amended soils under winter wheat-cover crop-sorghum rotation. Environmental Research Letters, 11 (8), pp. 1-13.

[thumbnail of hueppi_etal-2016_EnvironResLett-Vol11-p084013.pdf] PDF - Published Version - English
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.


Document available online at: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084013/meta


Biochar, a carbon-rich, porous pyrolysis product of organic residues, is evaluated as an option to tackle major problems of the global food system. Applied to soil, biochar can sequester carbon and have beneficial effects on nitrogen (N) cycling, thereby enhancing crop yields and reducing nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. There is little understanding of the underlying mechanisms, but many experiments indicated increased yields and manifold changes in N transformation, suggesting an increase in N use efficiency. Biochar's effects can be positive in extensively managed tropical agriculture, however less is known about its use in temperate soils with intensive fertilisation. We tested the effect of slow pyrolysis wood chip biochar on N use efficiency, crop yields and N2O emissions in a lysimeter system with two soil types (sandy loamy Cambisol and silty loamy Luvisol) in a winter wheat—cover crop—sorghum rotation. 15N-labelled ammonium nitrate fertiliser (170 kg N ha−1 in 3 doses, 10% 15N) was applied to the first crop to monitor its fate in three ecosystem components (plants, soil, leachate). Green rye was sown as cover crop to keep the first year's fertiliser N for the second year's sorghum crop (fertilised with 110 kg N ha−1 in two doses and natural abundance 15N). We observed no effects of biochar on N fertiliser use efficiency, yield or N uptake for any crop. Biochar reduced leaching by 43 ± 19% but only towards the end of the experiment with leaching losses being generally low. For both soils N2O emissions were reduced by 15 ± 4% with biochar compared to the control treatments. Our results indicate that application of the chosen biochar induces environmental benefits in terms of N2O emission and N leaching but does not substantially affect the overall N cycle and hence crop performance in the analyzed temperate crop rotation.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:biochar, nitrous oxide, nitrogen use efficiency, leaching, lysimeter, 15N tracer
Subjects: Soil > Soil quality
Crop husbandry > Production systems > Cereals, pulses and oilseeds
Environmental aspects > Air and water emissions
Research affiliation: Switzerland > Agroscope
Switzerland > ETHZ - Agrarwissenschaften
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Soil
Switzerland > Other organizations
DOI:DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084013
Deposited By: Krauss, Maike
ID Code:34685
Deposited On:25 Feb 2019 20:53
Last Modified:13 Jan 2021 07:23
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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