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Biochar and compost increase crop yields but the effect is short term on sandplain soils of Western Australia

Hall, D.J.M. and Bell, R.W.ORCID: 0000-0002-7756-3755 (2015) Biochar and compost increase crop yields but the effect is short term on sandplain soils of Western Australia. Pedospher, 25 (5). pp. 720-728.

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Sandplain soils on the south coast of Western Australia have low inherent fertility, which is mainly due to poor nutrient retention caused by insufficient clay and organic colloidal material. Previous research has shown the benefits in nutrient levels and retention from adding clay to sandplain soils; however, there is almost no information on the addition of organic amendments. A field experiment was established at the Esperance Downs Research Station, Western Australian, in May 2010, to assess the effects of wheat straw (WS) and chicken manure (CM) biochars and compost with and without phosphorus (P) addition on soil properties and crop production over five growing seasons. The five seasons alternated between winter and summer crops. The CM and WS biochar and compost treatments significantly increased crop yields and P uptake in 3, 2 and 1 of the five seasons, respectively. The yield increases (. P < 0.05) were no more than 8%. By the end of the third season, no differences in crop yields were found that could be attributed to the organic amendments. The addition of P increased crop yields in each winter cropping season. Phosphorus addition explained more than 30% of the variation in crop yields. Despite marginal P levels and summer drought conditions, arbuscular mycorrhizal root colonisation was not affected by the organic amendments. There were no significant interactions between the organic amendments and P addition in terms of crop yields, P uptake or P uptake efficiency. We conclude that much of the effect of the organic amendments was due to direct nutrient addition which dissipated over time.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Copyright: © 2015 Soil Science Society of China.
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