Phosphorus availability from bone char in a P-fixing soil influenced by root-mycorrhizae-biochar interactions

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Aims: The objectives of this study were to evaluate (1) the fertilizer potential of bone char, (2) the effects of wood biochar on plant-available phosphorus (P), and (3) the role of root-mycorrhizae-biochar interactions in plant P acquisition from a P-fixing soil.

Methods: Incubation and pot experiments were conducted with a P-fixing soil and maize with or without root hairs and arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) associations. Olsen-, resin-P and plant P accumulation were used to estimate P availability from bone char, co-pyrolyzed bone char-wood biochar, and separate bone char and wood biochar additions produced at 60, 350 and 750°C, and Triple Superphosphate (TSP).

Results: Maize inoculated with AM showed similar P accumulation when fertilized with either 750°C bone char or TSP. Pyrolyzing bone did not increase extractable P in soil in comparison to unpyrolyzed bone, apart from a 67% increase in resin-extractable P after additions of bone char pyrolyzed at 350°C. Despite greater Olsen-P extractability, co-pyrolysis of bone with wood reduced maize P uptake. Wood biochars reduced resin-P from bone char by 14-26%, whereas oven-dried wood increased resin-P by 23%.

Conclusions: Bone char is an effective P fertilizer, especially if root-AM interactions are simultaneously considered. Biochar influences plant access to soil P and requires careful management to improve P availability.

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We are grateful for support from the Towards Sustainability Foundation, CARE-Cornell Impact through Innovations Fund, McKnight Foundation, Bradfield Award, Fulbright and Huygens Talent Scholarship Program. We would also like to thank Cornell Center for Materials Research for help with X-ray Diffraction Analysis under NSF award number DMR-0520404, Berhanu Belay and Gebermedihin Ambaw for support in procuring the soil, and Dawit Solomon for help with data interpretation.

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arbuscular mycorrhizae; biochar; bone char; nutrient acquisition strategies; phosphorus adsorption


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Zwetsloot, M.J., Lehmann, J., Bauerle, T., Vanek, S., Hestrin, R., Nigussie, A., 2016. Phosphorus availability from bone char in a P-fixing soil influenced by root-mycorrhizae-biochar interactions. Plant and Soil 408, 95–105. doi:10.1007/s11104-016-2905-2

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This is a "Post-Print" accepted manuscript, which has been Published in "Plant and Soil". The item includes alternative text for figures, has a accessible reading order, headings, captions as well as contrasting colors for tables.

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