Combined effects of biochar and fertilizer applications on yield: A review and meta-analysis

Shahla Hosseini Bai, Negar Omidvar, Marta Gallart, Wiebke Kämper, Iman Tahmasbian, Michael B. Farrar, Kanika Singh, Guiyao Zhou, Bushra Muqadass, Cheng Yuan Xu, Richard Koech, Yujuan Li, Thi Thu Nhan Nguyen, Lukas van Zwieten

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The use of biochar is changing, and the combined application of biochar with fertilizer is increasingly gaining acceptance. However, the yield gains results reported in the existing literature through the co-application of fertilizer with biochar are conflicting. To resolve this, we utilized a meta-analysis of 627 paired data points extracted from 57 published articles to assess the performance of the co-application of biochar and fertilizers on crop yield compared with the corresponding controls. We also studied the impact of biochar characteristics, experimental conditions, and soil properties on crop yield. Our analysis showed that individually, biochar and inorganic fertilizer increased crop yield by 25.3% ± 3.2 (Bootstrap CI 95%) and 21.9% ± 4.4, respectively. The co-application of biochar with both inorganic and organic fertilizers increased crop yield by 179.6% ± 18.7, however, this data needs to be treated with caution due to the limited dataset. The highest yield increase was observed with amendments to very acidic soils (pH ≤5), but the benefits of biochar were not affected by the rate and the time after the application. In addition, the effects of biochar are enhanced when it is produced at 401–500 °C with a C:N ratio of 31–100. Our results suggest that the co-application of biochar with either inorganic and/or organic fertilizers in acidic soils increase crop productivity compared to amendment with either fertilizer or biochar. Our meta-analysis supports the utilization of biochar to enhance the efficiency and profitability of fertilizers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152073
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


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