A Combination of Biochar–Mineral Complexes and Compost Improves Soil Bacterial Processes, Soil Quality, and Plant Properties
Authors: Jun Ye, Rui Zhang, Shaun Nielsen, Stephen D. Joseph, Danfeng Huang and Torsten Thomas
Publisher: Frontiers in Microbiology
Organic farming avoids the use of synthetic fertilizers and promises food production with minimal environmental impact, however this farming practice does not often result in the same productivity as conventional farming. In recent years, biochar has received increasing attention as an agricultural amendment and by coating it with minerals to form biochar–mineral complex (BMC) carbon retention and nutrient availability can be improved. However, little is known about the potential of BMC in improving organic farming. We therefore investigated here how soil, bacterial and plant properties respond to a combined treatment of BMC and an organic fertilizer, i.e., a compost based on poultry manure. In a pakchoi pot trial, BMC and compost showed synergistic effects on soil properties, and specifically by increasing nitrate content. Soil nitrate has been previously observed to increase leaf size and we correspondingly saw an increase in the surface area of pakchoi leaves under the combined treatment of BMC and composted chicken manure. The increase in soil nitrate was also correlated with an enrichment of bacterial nitrifiers due to BMC. Additionally, we observed that the bacteria present in the compost treatment had a high turnover, which likely facilitated organic matter degradation and a reduction of potential pathogens derived from the manure. Overall our results demonstrate that a combination of BMC and compost can stimulate microbial process in organic farming that result in better vegetable production and improved soil properties for sustainable farming.
Illustration Photo: Encendia Urban Blend biochar, existing soil, compost, and additional lawn seeds (Credit: Vbenjou/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0) https://adalidda.net/posts/oFQgHiQHiFhJEGQKM/a-combination-of-biochar-mineral-complexes-and-compost