Biochar boosts tropical but not temperate crop yields

Simon Jeffery, Diego Abalos, Marija Prodana, Ana Catarina Bastos, Jan Willem Van Groenigen, Bruce A Hungate, Frank Verheijen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

92 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Applying biochar to soil is thought to have multiple benefits, from helping mitigate climate change [1, 2], to managing waste [3] to conserving soil [4]. Biochar is also widely assumed to boost crop yield [5, 6], but there is controversy regarding the extent and cause of any yield benefit [7]. Here we use a global-scale meta-analysis to show that biochar has, on average, no effect on crop yield in temperate latitudes, yet elicits a 25% average increase in yield in the tropics. In the tropics, biochar increased yield through liming and fertilization, consistent with the low soil pH, low fertility, and low fertilizer inputs typical of arable tropical soils. We also found that, in tropical soils, high-nutrient biochar inputs stimulated yield substantially more than low-nutrient biochar, further supporting the role of nutrient fertilization in the observed yield stimulation. In contrast, arable soils in temperate regions are moderate in pH, higher in fertility, and generally receive higher fertilizer inputs, leaving little room for additional benefits from biochar. Our findings demonstrate that the yield-stimulating effects of biochar are not universal, but may especially benefit agriculture in low-nutrient, acidic soils in the tropics. Biochar management in temperate zones should focus on potential non-yield benefits such as lime and fertilizer cost savings, greenhouse gas emissions control, and other ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number053001
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume12
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 25 2017

Fingerprint

crop yield
Crops
Soils
Soil
Tropics
Nutrients
Fertilizers
tropical soil
fertilizer
nutrient
fertility
Food
soil
Fertilization
Fertility
emission control
meta-analysis
liming
soil nutrient
ecosystem service

Keywords

  • biochar
  • crop yield
  • meta-analysis
  • soil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Cite this

Jeffery, S., Abalos, D., Prodana, M., Bastos, A. C., Van Groenigen, J. W., Hungate, B. A., & Verheijen, F. (2017). Biochar boosts tropical but not temperate crop yields. Environmental Research Letters, 12(5), [053001]. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa67bd

Biochar boosts tropical but not temperate crop yields. / Jeffery, Simon; Abalos, Diego; Prodana, Marija; Bastos, Ana Catarina; Van Groenigen, Jan Willem; Hungate, Bruce A; Verheijen, Frank.

In: Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 12, No. 5, 053001, 25.04.2017.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Jeffery, S, Abalos, D, Prodana, M, Bastos, AC, Van Groenigen, JW, Hungate, BA & Verheijen, F 2017, 'Biochar boosts tropical but not temperate crop yields', Environmental Research Letters, vol. 12, no. 5, 053001. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa67bd
Jeffery S, Abalos D, Prodana M, Bastos AC, Van Groenigen JW, Hungate BA et al. Biochar boosts tropical but not temperate crop yields. Environmental Research Letters. 2017 Apr 25;12(5). 053001. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa67bd
Jeffery, Simon ; Abalos, Diego ; Prodana, Marija ; Bastos, Ana Catarina ; Van Groenigen, Jan Willem ; Hungate, Bruce A ; Verheijen, Frank. / Biochar boosts tropical but not temperate crop yields. In: Environmental Research Letters. 2017 ; Vol. 12, No. 5.
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