Biochar compound fertilisers increase plant potassium uptake 2 years after application without additional organic fertiliser

Michael B. Farrar, Helen M. Wallace, Cheng Yuan Xu, Stephen Joseph, Thi Thu Nhan Nguyen, Peter K. Dunn, Shahla Hosseini Bai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Biochar compound fertilisers (BCFs) are an emerging technology that combine biochar with nutrients, clays and minerals and can be formulated to address specific issues in soil-plant systems. However, knowledge of BCF performance over consecutive crops and without re-application is limited. This study aims to assess the residual effect of organic BCFs soil-plant nutrient cycling 2 years after application and without additional fertiliser inputs. We applied BCFs and biochar with organic fertiliser amendments and established a crop of ginger and a second crop of turmeric (Curcuma longa) without re-application or additional fertilisation. All treatment formulations included bamboo-biochar and organic fertiliser amendments; however, two novel BCFs were formulated to promote agronomic response in an intensive cropping system. We report here on the effect of treatments on soil and plant macronutrient and micronutrient cycling and turmeric growth, biomass and yield at harvest. Both BCFs (enriched (10 t ha−1) and organo-mineral biochar (8.6 t ha−1) increased foliar K (+155% and +120%) and decreased foliar Mg (−20% and −19%) concentration compared with all other treatments, suggesting antagonism between K and Mg. Plants were limited for K, P and B at harvest but not N, Ca or Mg. Foliar K was dependent on the biochar formulation rather than the rate of application. Biochar-clay aggregates increased K retention and cycling in the soil solution 2 years after application. Clay blended BCFs reduced K limitation in turmeric compared to biochar co-applied with organic amendments, suggesting these blends can be used to manage organic K nutrition. All formulations and rates of biochar increased leaf biomass and shoot-to-root ratio. Novel BCFs should be considered as an alternative to co-applying biochar with organic fertiliser amendments to decrease application rates and increase economic feasibility for farmers. Applying BCFs without re-application or supplementary fertiliser did not provide sufficient K or P reserves in the second year for consecutive cropping. Therefore, supplementary fertilisation is recommended to avoid nutrient deficiency and reduced yield for consecutive organic rhizome crops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7170-7184
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


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