Articles | Volume 14, issue 11
Research article
13 Jun 2017
Research article |  | 13 Jun 2017

Biochar reduces yield-scaled emissions of reactive nitrogen gases from vegetable soils across China

Changhua Fan, Hao Chen, Bo Li, and Zhengqin Xiong

Abstract. Biochar amendment to soil has been proposed as a strategy for sequestering carbon, mitigating climate change and enhancing crop productivity. However, few studies have compared the general effect of different feedstock-derived biochars on the various gaseous reactive nitrogen emissions (GNrEs) of N2O, NO and NH3 simultaneously across the typical vegetable soils in China. A greenhouse pot experiment with five consecutive vegetable crops was conducted to investigate the effects of two contrasting biochars, namely wheat straw biochar (Bw) and swine manure biochar (Bm) on GNrEs, vegetable yield and gaseous reactive nitrogen intensity (GNrI) in four typical soils which are representative of the intensive vegetable cropping systems across mainland China: an Acrisol from Hunan Province, an Anthrosol from Shanxi Province, a Cambisol from Shandong Province and a Phaeozem from Heilongjiang Province. Results showed that remarkable GNrE mitigation induced by biochar occurred in Anthrosol and Phaeozem, whereas enhancement of yield occurred in Cambisol and Phaeozem. Additionally, both biochars decreased GNrI through reducing N2O and NO emissions by 36.4–59.1 and 37.0–49.5 % for Bw (except for Cambisol), respectively, and by improving yield by 13.5–30.5 % for Bm (except for Acrisol and Anthrosol). Biochar amendments generally stimulated the NH3 emissions with greater enhancement from Bm than Bw. We can infer that the biochar's effects on the GNrEs and vegetable yield strongly depend on the attributes of the soil and biochar. Therefore, in order to achieve the maximum benefits under intensive greenhouse vegetable agriculture, both soil type and biochar characteristics should be seriously considered before conducting large-scale biochar applications.

Short summary
Intensive vegetable fields suffered very low N use efficiency and very high N2O emissions as compared to other ecosystems. We have demonstrated that two contrasting biochars affected gaseous reactive nitrogen intensity (N2O, NO, NH3, yield) across four major vegetable soils in China. Biochar affects gaseous Nr or yield largely depending on soil types. Both wheat straw biochar (Bw) and swine manure biochar (Bm) decreased GNI with Bw mitigated gaseous Nr, whereas Bm improved yield.
Final-revised paper