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The impact of biochar composting on soil quality beside yield and metabolism of Chenopodium quinoa Willd. - A comparative study of soil enrichment with compost, biochar, composted biochar and biochar mixed with compost.

Nicole Messerschmidt (2013)

Masterthesis vom 02.01.2013


The impact of biochar composting on soil quality beside yield and metabolism of Chenopodium quinoa Willd. - A comparative study of soil enrichment with compost, biochar, composted biochar and biochar mixed with compost.

Auswirkung der Kompostierung von Biochar auf die Bodenqualität sowie auf Ertrag und Stoffwechsel von Chenopodium quinoa Willd. - Vergleichende Untersuchung der Bodenzusätze Kompost, Biochar, kompostiertes Biochar und Biochar im Gemisch mit Kompost.


The agricultural sector faces new challenges, caused by population growth, mismanagement and expected future threads of climate change. There are several approaches to this problem of which the cultivation of new crop plants and an overall improvement of soil conditions seem promising. Terra preta de Índio is a term for fertile soils in Amazonia that serves as a kind of role model for such improvements. To imitate them and to aim higher yields and soil characteristics, people try to produce Terra preta like charcoal, called biochar (bc). But there are some differences between those charcoal pieces and production-fresh bc.

To reproduce the process, bc got composted together with organic wastes. By the performance of a green house experiment this study tested whether the conditions of composting form a favorable soil additive. Chenopodium quinoa, a pseudo-crop, was cultivated on a nutrient-poor soil with several soil additives. First the bc-compost-mixture (Bcb-K) was tested and compared to pure compost (K) and a post hoc mixture of pure compost and production-fresh bc (Bcu-K). Besides, composted bc particles of the size ³ 2 mm and £ 5 mm were picked out of the mixture and applied solely. Other treatments contained production-fresh bc particles and just the control soil. To get some further information about the nutrient content, two application rates of a NPK fertilizer were used, that correlate to 28 and 140 kg nitrogen per hectare.

The composting of Bc led to a higher conductivity but not significant increased nutrient concentrations, except for nitrate. The usage of Bcb-K otherwise caused higher potassium and nitrate concentrations and a higher water content than a post hoc mixture. Based on these characteristics Bcb-K produced the highest yields, whereas Bcu-K attained the same as K. This was also shown for the solely applications. Bcu generated no difference or even a decrease. The fertilizer reduction led to strong losses in production which could be counteracted by Bcb, K and Bcu-K. Bcb-K even exceeded the yield of the control under full fertilizer. Concerning the mineral concentrations of the leaves, only Bcb-K showed less in the case of calcium and magnesium. The total nitrogen concentration was reduced in all treatments containing compost which resulted in a slightly reduced mean of photosynthesis and a higher nitrogen use efficiency. Especially under unfavorable circumstances (no compost, less fertilizer) composted bc appeared to act promoting, while unthreatened bc seems to reduce the efficiency.

This study gave some insights to the effects of composted biochar. Especially the application together with compost showed some interesting results. On the other hand it indicates the need for further research concerning the adsorption of nutrients to the surface or the chemical alterations during composting.