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The single high-dose application of biochar to increase rice yield has been well reported. However, limited informa- tion is available about the long-term effects of increasing rice yield and soil fertility. This study was designed to per - form a 6-year field experiment to unveil the rice yield with time due to various biochar application strategies. Moreo - −1 ver, an alternative strategy of the Annual Low dose biochar application (AL, 8 × 35% = 2.8 t ha ) was also conducted −1 −1 to make a comparison with the High Single dose (HS, 22.5 t ha ), and annual Rice Straw (RS, 8 t ha ) amendment to investigate the effects on annual rice yield attributes and soil nutrient concentrations. Results showed that the rice yield in AL with a lower biochar application exceeded that of HS significantly (p < 0.05) in the 6th experimental year. The rice yield increased by 14.3% in RS, 10.9% in AL, and 4.2% in HS. The unexpectedly higher rice yield in AL than HS resulted from enhanced soil total carbon ( TC), pH, and available Ca. However, compared to AL, liable carbon frac- tion increased by 33.7% in HS, while refractory carbon fraction dropped by 22.3%. Likewise, biochar characterization showed that more oxygen functional groups existed in HS than in AL. Decreasing inert organic carbon pools due to the constant degradation of the aromatic part of biochar in HS led to a lower soil TC than AL, even with a higher amount of biochar application. Likewise, the annual depletion lowered the soil pH and available Ca declination in HS. Based on the obtained results, this study suggested AL as a promising strategy to enhance rice productivity, soil nutri- ent enrichment, and carbon sequestration in the paddy ecosystem. Highlights • Annual Low-rate biochar strategy showed higher rice yields than High Single in the 6th year. 2+ • Higher total carbon, pH, and Ca led to higher rice yields in Annual Low than High Single. • Higher aromatic carbon loss in High Single contributed to lower inert organic carbon. Keywords Biochar, Annual low rate, Single high dose, Rice yield, Carbon fractions, Soil quality Handling editor: Hailong Wang *Correspondence: Weixiang Wu email@example.com Full list of author information is available at the end of the article © The Author(s) 2023. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. 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Biochar (2023) 5:27 Page 2 of 13 Graphic abstract 1 Introduction Considering the need for carbon sequestration and Rice (Oryza sativa L.) is the primary dietary energy obtaining high rice yields through the use of agricul- source and a major staple food for more than 3.5 bil- tural waste (Ozturk et al. 2017; Kwoczynski and Čmelík lion people across the globe, particularly in Asia (Qin 2021), rice straw was developed to be amended into the et al. 2023; Parashar et al. 2023).An increasing popula- soil after pyrolysis to biochar (Thammasom et al. 2016; Si tion leads to the increasing demand for food (Zhou et al. 2018; Nan et al. 2020c; Zheng et al. 2020). Conver- et al. 2021; Mehmood et al. 2021), which results in sig- sion of rice straw to biochar provides the dual benefits nificantly increased rice cultivation and production. of managing the rice straw waste and offering additional To dispose of the accompanied massive amount of rice environmental benefits, including soil amendment and straw, incorporation into the paddy field is a sustain - carbon sequestration (Waqas et al. 2021). Biochar, a rich able management for superficial rice production (Nan source of various inorganic minerals and organic matter et al. 2020b). It has been well reported that field incor - contents, provides essential nutrients to plants (Qadeer poration of rice straw considerably improved the soil et al. 2017). Likewise, owing to the carbon sequestra- microbial biomass, soil organic carbon (SOC), total tion capabilities, the soil application of biochar has been carbon (TC), and nitrogen (N) levels (Benbi et al. 2021; recommended as a promising way for climate change Zhou et al. 2020) and immobilization (Zhou et al. 2020; mitigation. Chen et al. 2022). In addition, the mineralogical com- Furthermore, the straw-derived biochar is also position also depicts that the rice straw is rich in phos- enriched with various nutrients rice straw provides, ash phorus (P), potassium (K) (Liu et al. 2019), magnesium content mitigating soil pH (Wu et al. 2022), recalcitrant (Mg) (Nan et al. 2020b), and other nutrients. However, carbon exerting a role in the carbon sequestration, and rice straw amendment into the paddy soil will increase a small part of liable carbon contributing to SOC (Cross greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) such as methane and Sohi 2011; Wang and Wang 2019). Moreover, biochar (CH ), which gives negative feedback to the paddy eco- applications significantly improved the soil microbial system and is a poor strategy to achieve carbon neu- communities and their enzymatic activities (Jabborova trality ( Jiang et al. 2019). et al. 2021). It is well understood that soil is the home Nan et al. Biochar (2023) 5:27 Page 3 of 13 to various microbes, including bacteria, algae, fungi, strategy as a comparison. Soil properties and biochar archaea, protozoa, and actinomycetes (Palansooriya et al. characterization were analyzed to disclose the under- 2019). These soil-inhibited microorganisms are directly lying mechanism that alters rice yield. It was hypothe- involved in various beneficial soil activities, including sized that an annual low-rate biochar application would the decomposition of organic matter, disease and pest increase the rice yield over a single high-rate biochar suppression, recycling of multiple nutrients, secretion of application after years of amendment. plant growth promoter hormones, soil structure forma- tion, remediation of organic contaminants (Waqas et al. 2021; Farrell et al. 2013) However, it has been suggested 2 Materials and methods that the effects of biochar on the soil microbial commu - 2.1 Collection of feedstock and biochar preparation nities mainly depend on the application strategies of bio- Rice (Oryza sativa L. Japonica rice Xiushui 134) straw char, types of biochar, and soil (Palansooriya et al. 2019). was used as the feedstock for biochar production. In addition, the high porosity and acid oxygen-func- Detailed information about biochar production can be tional groups on the surface make biochar an excellent found in the Additional file 1. Briefly, biochar was pro - candidate for N retention (Brennan et al. 2001; Nguyen duced under 500 ℃ in oxygen-deficient conditions for 2 h et al. 2017) and provide habitat for microbial communi- in a self-made auto-carbonizing furnace. Biochar yield ties to colonize, promoting their growth in the soil envi- produced from rice straw was 35%. Attributes of biochar ronment (Waqas et al. 2018). Dong et al. (2015) reported and rice straw are listed in the Additional file 1: Table S1. −1 that biochar application at 22.5 t ha increased the rice Carbon content in produced biochar was 47.2%. Like- yield by 19.8%. Similarly, the findings of many researchers wise, the pH of the produced biochar was 10.58. considerably proved that single high-rate biochar incor- poration could improve the soil and enhance the crop (rice) yield in the subsequent years (Liu et al. 2014, 2021; 2.2 Field experiments Mehmood et al. 2020). However, how many years the The field situation was described in the previously pub - crop production increased without supplementary addi- lished article (Nan et al. 2020a). Briefly, the field was tion of biochar is still under discussion.. The exploration located in Jingshan town in Hangzhou. The paddy field is of great importance for developing countermeasures to soil was classified as Ultisol with a clay loam texture. Soil keep long-lasting rice yield. properties are given in Additional file 1: Table S1. The Theoretically, the high rice production as a result of field was conventional paddy before the experiment. a high single biochar dose will vanish after a few years. The experimental design was a Randomized Complete Generally, TC increase under biochar application is a Block Design (RCBD) with three replications. Each plot key factor for high rice production (Nan et al. 2020b). size was kept at 4 × 5 m. Plastic film and quartzite were However, with the temporal aging process, biochar car- covered on the ridges to separate the plots and to facili- bon experienced liable carbon mineralization, and aro- tate the researcher’s walking for data collection. Fields matic carbon degradation after years of rice growth were used continuously from 2015 to 2020. The single −1 cycles could lead to lower TC content. Correspondingly, high-dose biochar amendment at 22.5 t ha (Liou et al. the nutrient concentration as a result of no biochar sup- 2003) was applied only in 2015. Correspondingly, rice −1 −1 plementary in the following years will also be gradually straw at 8 t ha (RS) and biochar at 2.8 t ha (8 × 35% −1 consumed and the liming effect would gradually disap - = 2.8 t ha , AL, of which 35% is the biochar yield when pear (Nan et al. 2021). Considering the economic aspects pyrolyzed with rice straw) were applied during each of biochar production and single high-dose application, experimental year before the addition of fertilizer. An un- the annual low-rate biochar amendment, incorporating amendment treatment was kept as a control to compare low-rate biochar into the soil every single year, could be the effect of each treatment. Biochar and rice straw were a promising way to achieve high rice production over a incorporated to a depth of 20 cm using a rake one day prolonged period (Awad et al. 2018). The reason behind before fertilization and transplanting. Then, fertilizer of −1 this is that the annual biochar application at a lower rate 270 kg nitrogen (N, Urea) ha , 32.75 kg phosphorus (P, −1 could provide continuous and accumulative nutrient sup- superphosphate) ha , and 74.5 kg potassium (K, potas- −1 ply, soil quality improvement, and better rice production sium chloride) ha was added to each plot and kept con- (Nan et al. 2020b). stant during the following years. Ricegrew from late June To disclose the rice production promotion of declin- and washarvested in November without a rotation crop. ing points after years, a 6-year field experiment from The paddy field was maintained by intermittent irrigation 2015 to 2020 was conducted, with a promising alternative from the grain-filling stage to the maturing stage. Nan et al. Biochar (2023) 5:27 Page 4 of 13 2.3 Det ermination of soil nutrients magnetic resonance (NMR, Bruker BioSpin AG, Switzer- Rice yields were determined each year of the experimen- land), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS, VG tal duration (2015 to 2020). Soil samples were collected Escalab-Mark II, England) were conducted to explore the by diagonal sampling method after rice was harvested. surface chemistry of the biochar. Five soil samples were randomly collected from each plot and composed together as one soil sample. After 2.6 Quantification of Gram‑positive bacteria and collection, the soil samples were sealed in plastic bags Gram‑negative bacteria by qPCR and transported to the laboratory to be air-dried, sieved The microbial community composition was also assessed through a 2 mm sieve, and analyzed for pH, TC contents by the ratios of gram-negative bacteria/gram-positive − + of available P (Melich III-P), K, Ca, Mg, zinc (Zn), iron bacteria (G /G ) in the soil at the mature stage in 2020 (Fe), aluminum (Al) and manganese (Mn). The detailed to analyze the biochar degradation potential better. The measuring method can be found in the Additional file 1. specific sequences of primers (5-AGA GTT TGA TCC TGG CTC AG-3) and (5-ACG GCT ACC TTG TTA CGA CTT-3) 2.4 Det ermination of carbon fractions were used for G. Primers of (5-CCA GCA GCC GCG GTA Soil total organic carbon was determined by the Walk- ATA C-3) and (5-TAA CCC AAC ATY TCA CRA CAC GAG ley–Black method (Li et al. 2016). The dissolved organic -3) were used for G . The detailed protocol is supplied in carbon was extracted by 1 M KCl solution and meas- Additional file 1 . ured by dichromate oxidation. Microbial biomass carbon (MBC) was determined using the C HCl fumigation- 2.7 Data analysis extraction method (Vance et al. 1987). The liable organic All the collected data were subjected to R 3.6.1 and carbon of the bulk soil was measured according to the SPSS 24.0 statisticalsoftware by testing the significance process of Weil et al. (2003). The light fraction organic among various treatments at a 5% probability level. carbon (LFOC) was determined according to Roscoe and One-way ANOVA and the least significant difference Burman (Roscoe and Buurman 2003). Particular organic (LSD) method were employed to calculate the differ - carbon (POC) and mineral-associated organic carbon ence between treatments. Moreover, regression analysis fractions were determined according to Lagomarsino was done to reveal the relationship between treatments et al. (2011). Heavy fraction organic carbon (HFOC) was and crop parameters. The function of gvlma was used to determined according to Falloon and Smith (2000). Soil testify and assure all the linear assumption assessments DOC, MBC, and LOC were classified as active organic were acceptable. The importance of soil nutrients on rice carbon pools (AC) (Song et al. 2012). Soil POC and yield was calculated by the real weight function after LFOC were classified as chronic organic carbon pools data was standardized by scale function. (Cambardella and Elliott 1992). Soil HFOC and MOC were classified as inert organic carbon pools (IOC) (Fal - 3 Results loon and Smith 2000). The detailed detection method 3.1 Rice yield is listed in the Additional file 1. Soil inorganic carbon The results in the given Fig. 1 depict that all the amend- (IC) was obtained by TC with TOC deduction. ment strategies (biochar and rice straw treatments) sig- nificantly (p < 0.05) increased rice production over the 2.5 Biochar characterization duration of six years of field experiments (2015 to 2020) For the biochar collection, surface soil samples (0–20 cm) (Fig. 1). The results revealed that in comparison to the were collected through a 5 cm diameter sampling auger control treatment (CK), the rice yield in the 6th year during the rice tillering stage in 2020. For each plot, five increased by 14.3% in RS, 10.9% in AL, and 4.2% in HS soil samples were collected on the diagonal and com- respectively. A significant (p < 0.05) higher rice yield posed of one sample. The collected soil sample was for AL was observed in 2020. Furthermore, no signifi - mixed evenly and transported into the laboratory for cant difference was observed from 2016 to 2019 in AL biochar particle sampling. Biochar particles of 150 μm compared to HS. The result is in line with the proposed to 1 mm diameter were hand-picked from the soil sam- hypothesis that the annual low-rate application of bio- ples using tweezers under an optical microscope (45×, char will considerably increase the rice yield over a single SZ61, Olympus) until no visible biochar particles were high-dose biochar application. observed. Then, to get the clean biochar particles, they were washed with deionized water and then oven-dried 3.2 Soil nutrients at 60 °C (Yi et al. 2020). Elemental analysis (EA, Flash To investigate the key indicators contributing to higher EA1112, Thermo Finnigan, Italy), Fourier-transform rice yields, soil TC, TN, and available nutrient ele- infrared spectroscopy (FTIR, Nicolet, USA), C nuclear ments were detected. Most of the nutrient increase was Nan et al. Biochar (2023) 5:27 Page 5 of 13 observed for RS treatment. In comparison with CK, soil the high soil TC was recorded in AL, whereas as com- TC, TN, NH -N, available Mg, Zn, and Mn in RS were pared to CK no significant difference was observed for significantly (p < 0.05) enhanced by 25.5%, 13.9%, 25.3%, HS. 26%, 42.3%, and 53.6%, respectively (Fig. 2, Addi- tional file 1: Fig. S1). Likewise, in comparison to CK, AL significantly (p < 0.05) increased soil TC, TN, NH 3.3 Mechanism of higher rice yield in AL relative to HS -N, available K, Ca, and soil pH by 29%, 11.4%, 23.9%, Without considering the loss, biochar was applied at −1 53.3%, and 6.4%, respectively. HS significantly (p < 0.05) 22.5 t ha for HS, whereas AL contained an annual −1 enhanced the soil TN, NH -N, available Mg, Zn, and application of 16.8 t ha . The results depicted that a Mn by 16.7%, 29.6%, 31%, 43.8%, and 51.8%, respec- higher rice yield than HS was observed for AL in 2020, tively, as compared to CK. It is worth noting that, com- with no significant difference observed from 2016 to pared to HS, the soil pH and available Ca in AL were 2019. To explore the increasing effect of AL for higher considerably increased to or by ?) 2.8% (p = 0.0497) rice production than HS in 2020, a stepwise regres- and 13.2%, respectively (p = 0.0414) (Fig . 2). Moreover, sion (n = 52, R = 0.847) among rice yield and soil nutri- ents was conducted. The results in the given Table 1 showed that soil TC (p = 0.0008), pH (p = 0.0021), available Ca (p < 0.0001), Fe (p = 0.0019), and Mg Table 1 Regression information of rice yield and soil nutrients (p = 0.0124) showed a positive relation to the rice by stepwise method yield. However, soil available AL showed a consider- Estimate Standard t value Pr(>|t|) Significance able (p < 0.0001) negative interaction with the rice yield. error label The result was similar to the correlation PCA analy - sis (Additional file 1: Fig. S4). The relative importance (Intercept) -33.3200 11.6900 - 2.8510 0.0067 ** analysis for the soil nutrients to the rice yield showed pH 7.8930 2.4080 3.2770 0.0021 ** the contribution order of soil nutrients to rice yield: TC 1.5160 0.4198 3.6130 0.0008 *** available Ca > Al > TC > Fe > TN (p = 0.0779) > pH > Mg TN 0.8471 0.4688 1.8070 0.0779 . (Fig. 3). Soil TC, TN available Ca and pH were signifi - Mg 0.0040 0.0015 2.6140 0.0124 * cantly increased (p < 0.05) in AL treatments in 2020, Ca 0.0032 0.0006 5.6850 0.0000 *** while in comparison to CK, HS only increased the soil Al - 0.0043 0.0006 - 6.6710 0.0000 *** available Mg (p < 0.05) content. Hence, the lower rice Fe 0.0014 0.0004 3.3080 0.0019 ** yield in HS could be due to the lower contribution to pH*TC - 0.2925 0.0832 - 3.5150 0.0011 ** soil TC, pH, and available Ca compared with AL. R = 0.847 Fig. 1 Rice yield from 2015 to 2020. CK represents control treatment. RS represents the annual rice straw treatment. AL represents biochar collected from annual low biochar strategy treatment and HS represents biochar collected from high single biochar strategy Nan et al. Biochar (2023) 5:27 Page 6 of 13 Fig. 2 Soil properties after rice was harvested in 2020. CK represents control treatment. RS represents the annual rice straw treatment. AL represents biochar collected from annual low biochar strategy treatment and HS represents biochar collected from high single biochar strategy TOC constituted the main difference in the soil TC between AL and HS, as IC showed a similar value (Additional file 1: Fig. S2). Hence, soil organic carbon fractions were further explored. Both the two biochar treatments decreased soil AC significantly (p < 0.05) while increased CC and IOC significantly (p < 0.05) (Additional file 1: Fig. S3), as compared to CK. The sig - nificantly decreased AC in biochar treatments mainly resulted from the reduced MBC (Fig. 4), not DOC (Additional file 1: Fig. S2). While HS increased LOC particularly (p = 0.021) in comparison to CK. POC and LFOC were significantly increased compared to Fig. 3 Relative importance of key soil properties on rice yield. CK in AL (p = 0.002, 0.001) and HS (p = 0.029, 0.002). R3.6.0 was used for stepwise regression analysis to make sure all assumptions were acceptable. Then weight function was used to get In contrast to CK, the significantly increased IOC in the relative importance of soil properties on rice yield AL resulted from HFOC and MOC (p = 0.027, 0.016, respectively). However, only MOC contributed to a significant increase (p = 0.025) of IOC in HS compared to CK. RS only increased AC significantly (p < 0.05) 3.4 M echanism of higher soil TC in AL than HS compared with CK. The result showed that IOC loss The significantly lower pH and Ca content in HS seem mainly led to decreased TC in HS compared to AL. reasonable compared to AL. However, the biochar Furthermore, EA, XPS, and FTIR analyses were also application amount in AL would be equal to that in HS −1 conducted to explore the changes in biochar character- in the eighth year (2.8 × 8 ≈ 22.5 t ha ). Considering istics to sort out the decreased IOC content in HS com- the recalcitrant nature, biochar significantly increased pared with AL (Fig. 5). For FTIR, the bandsat 647, 699, (p = 0.008) TC in AL, whereas no significant differ - −1 and 700–900 cm represented aromatic O–H, mono ence (p = 0.099) was observed for HS compared with polycyclic and branched aromatic groups and aromatic CK , indicating fast biochar degradation. In this regard, C–H, respectively (Liu et al. 2020). The bands at 1110, different soil carbon fractions and biochar characteri - −1 1031, 1160, 1600, and 1700 cm represented aliphatic zation were carried out to demonstrate the various pos- C–O, aliphatic C–O–C, aromatic CO– stretching, aro- sible phenomenon (Fig. 4). matic C=C, and aromatic C=O stretching, respectively Soil active and inert organic carbon pools were (Guang-Cai Chen et al. 2008). Likewise, the bands at detected. Even though no significant difference in 2845, 2925, and 2977 were assigned to aliphatic C–H (Yi TOC between AL and HS was observed (p = 0.133), Nan et al. Biochar (2023) 5:27 Page 7 of 13 Fig. 4 Soil carbon fractions in CK, RS, AL, and HS. CK represents control treatment. RS represents the annual rice straw treatment. AL represents biochar collected from annual low biochar strategy treatment and HS represents biochar collected from high single biochar strategy Fig. 5 Element analysis of carbon (a), nitrogen, and hydrogen (b), XPS result (c), FTIR result (d) of biochar characteristic, and Gram bacterial abundance (e) in AL and HS. F represents fresh biochar; AL represents biochar collected from annual low biochar strategy treatment and HS represents biochar collected from high single biochar strategy et al. 2020). For XPS, Peak energy for C1s was conducted by lower BC in HS, a significantly higher H content at 284.6 eV for C–C, C=C, and C–H, at 286.2 eV for (p = 0.04) was observed for HS as compared to AL C–O, 286.8 eV for C=O, and 287.6 eV for COOR (Singh (Fig. 5b). XPS results (Fig. 5c, Additional file 1: Table S2) et al. 2014). showed that, after 6 years of the aging process, the rela- EA analysis (Fig. 5a) showed that biochar carbon tive content of oxygen functional groups (COOR, C-OR) (BC) content in AL (50.79%) was significantly higher and mainly C-OR increase in HS biochar resulted in (p = 0.039)than that in HS (44.98%) and decreased sig- the lower BC content. The increased C-OR consisted of nificantly compared with fresh biochar. Accompanied aromatic CO– stretching and aliphatic C–O functional Nan et al. Biochar (2023) 5:27 Page 8 of 13 groupsaccording to the FTIR result (Fig. 5d). The (Yang et al. 2021; Woolf et al. 2010). Hence, the appli- increased oxygen functional group of aromatic O–H cation of biochar is encouraging to fulfill the need for −1 (647 cm ) also confirmed the increased H content in high yield and CH emission reduction (Wang et al. HS related to AL. These results showed that more aro - 2012; Zhang et al. 2010). matic biochar carbon in HS was oxidized than in AL. G AL is expected to achieve continuous yield-increasing is responsible for enhanced biochar degradation and co- effects as an alternative strategy in the long run. When − + metabolism of soil TOC, and G /G is negatively related in comparison to CK, AL significantly (p < 0.05) increased to the priming effect (Sheng et al. 2016). Significantly rice production in the last two experimental years, and (p = 0.046) increased G in AL than in HS was observed the yield-promoting effects showed an increasing trend (Fig. 5e). The significantly higher (p = 0.034) ratio of G / (Fig. 1). The growing promotion of rice yield in AL prob - G in AL was observed as compared to HS. The results ably resulted from the cumulative nutrient effect (Nan showed that biochar in HS was more fragile to degrade et al. 2020b). Moreover, the continuous ash content (Al- than AL. Wabel et al. 2013; Smider and Singh 2014; Yao et al. 2010) was supplemented by AL, and the nutritive element can be preserved mainly due to the unique surface func- 4 Discussion tionality of biochar (Ippolito et al. 2012) and highera- Keeping under consideration the higher rice yield effect, vailability than RS due to its liming effect. This is likely RS showed good performance in promoting rice yield. the reason for higher rice production in AL than in HS Even though this effect wascomparable with those of HS, in 2020. The 6-year field experiment also testedour however, for RS, the rice straw cost was lower in 6 experi- −1 −1 hypothesis that, in the 6th year, AL surpassed HS in rice mental years (8 × 6 t ha < 22.5/0.35 t ha ) compared yield increasing effect. Further, the higher soil CC in AL to HS. However, in 2020 HS showed a decreasing trend in than in CK indicated that ALhad a strong soil carbon rice yield. Similar results were reported by previous stud- supply capacity, as CC is a temporary storage reservoir ies (Nan et al. 2020a; Dong et al. 2013). The 6 years’ field for soil organic matter turnover and crop-effective nutri - experiments demonstrated high rice growth and produc- ents (Jandl and Sollins 1997). This indicates that AL was tion attributes for rice straw application strategy. conceived of great potential to maintain and increase soil The overwhelming rice yield increasing effects of RS fertility, thus achieving a stable or better rice yield stimu- over biochar treatments might result from the higher lation effect in the following long term. carbon input than that of AL (considering only 47.2% Soil TC, available Ca, and pH were the most significant carbon content remained when rice straw was con- factors contributing to the increasing rice yield of AL verted to biochar) on an annual basis. Whereas, soil over HS in 2020. It is reasonable that (1) soil pH in HS TC in RS was lower than AL in the third year. This was - showed no significant difference with CK and was signifi - mainly because of the recalcitrant carbon accumulation cantly lower (p < 0.05) than AL, and (2) soil available Ca in AL, as RS puta large amount of labile organic car- in HS was significantly lower (p < 0.05) than that in CK bon into the soil (Yin et al. 2014) while AL contained and AL. The fading liming effect of biochar in HS was mainly the introduced recalcitrant carbon (Mia et al. mainly due to the loss of ash content induced by years of 2017a). Labile organic carbon can be easily metabolized plant utilization and leaching process; meanwhile, and by microbes compared to the recalcitrant carbon (Far- the H released by increased acid oxygen-containing rell et al. 2013; Gorovtsov et al. 2020; Calvelo Pereira functional groups with biochar aging process (Li et al. et al. 2011). This was also confirmed by higher soil AC 2019). As biochar was only applied in 2015 with no sup- and lower CC and IOC content in RS than in AL and plementary in the following years, soil available Ca was HS (Additional file 1: Fig. S2). Hence, biochar amend- taken up by plants and probably was deficient in the early ment plays another vital role in carbon sequestration experimental years with the abundant of other nutrients (Lehmann et al. 2006; Spokas et al. 2012). On the other like soil TN, available Mg, and Mn (Fig. 2; Additional hand, the annual rice straw amendment gave nutrient file 1: Fig. S1). This was also consistent with the higher supplement once a year which contributed to yearly rice yield in HS in the early experiment years. Therefore, nutrient replenishment like soil TN and available Mg soil available Ca in HS was significantly lower (p < 0.05) (Fig. 2; Additional file 1: Fig. S1), benefiting rice pro - than that in CK. In contrast, with the annual biochar duction promotion insistently. The higher soil TN in application and nutrient supplement, soil available Ca in RS than in AL resulted from the higher TN content in AL was significantly higher than (p < 0.05) that in CK and rice straw than in biomass equivalent biochar. In addi- HS. Even so, it was intricate that soil TC in AL washigher tion to the higher rice production for the rice straw −1 (p = 0.1) than that in HS, with 16.8 t ha (2.8 × 6) in AL amendment strategy, the promotion of substantial CH emission induced by this strategy could not be ignored Nan et al. Biochar (2023) 5:27 Page 9 of 13 −1 combination importance for it reduced carbon emission while 22.5 t ha biochar was applied in HS in total till and also increased carbon sequestration. Biochar aromatic carbon loss is not the single reason Higher IOC in AL led to higher soil TC than HS. Both for lower soil TOC in HS than in AL. Rough biochar aro- AL and HS decreased AC pools while increasing IOC matic C (BAC) content calculation suggested that there pools. The difference was that the higher IOC content should be higher BAC in HS than in ALwithout consider- (HFOC and MOC) and lower AC (mainly LOC) were ation of BAC oxidation:there was still 19.06 t ha−1(22.5 observed in AL than in HS, indicating a transformation × 0.847) of biochar in HS treatment after deducting of IOC into AC in HS. IOC, with members of HFOC the labile carbon and 14.23 t ha−1 (2.8 × 6 × 0.847) of mainly composed of aromatic compounds, and MOC, biochar should have been applied in AL. The higher whose carbon is often associated with mineral ele- IOC content in AL than in HS meant that at least 25% ments, plays significant roles in carbon sequestration of BAC was oxidized, which is unrealistic. There must (Georgiou et al. 2022). With no extra carbon supple- be extra reasons for the lower IOC in HS relative to AL. mentationexcept for biochar, the increased HFOC in First, biochar migrated down. Rice roots grow actively in AL probably suggested a higher biochar aromatic car- the soil 0–20 cm. With agricultural activity like plowing bon than HS. A significantly higher (p = 0.035) MOC in and gravity function on small pieces of biochar degraded AL indicated higher aromatic carbon than in HS, con- or broken from big ones (Wang et al. 2020, Mia et al. sidering higher mineral content in HS (Additional file 1: 2017b), part of the biochar carbon would migrate down Fig. S1) except for available Ca. These results showed to deeper depth (50 cm) in soil (Singh et al. 2015) leading that biochar in HS probably experienced constant and to lower soil IOC detection in HS. Moreover, the abun- prominent degradation of an aromatic carbon during 6 dant nutrients provided by biochar in HS might cause years of rice growth cycles. native AC first and then inert carbon (humus) consump - Biochar aromatic carbon oxidation induced a lower tion combined with biochar oxidation. HS still had the IOC content in HS than in AL. Though more biochar effect of increasing soil available content of Mg, Zn, and (also more recalcitrant carbon)was added in HS than in TN (Fig. 2; Additional file 1: Fig. S1) to promote rice AL in the 6 years, the inert carbon in HS was lower than yield; accordingly more organic carbon was needed to in AL. Stronger aromatic carbon oxidation of biochar in support it . Whereas no significant difference in soil TC HS was observed than that in AL, which was confirmed was observed between CK and HS, with much recalci- by FTIR, XPS, and G abundance results. The oxidized trant carbon difficult to be used by microbes, soil native organic aromatic carbon was converted to relatively lia- organic carbon (AC and IOC) might have to be replen- ble carbon, resulting in higher LOC content and lower ishment. The conceptual figure of the supposed carbon HFOC in HS. After biochar was applied to soil, labile loss mechanisms in HS is displayed in Fig. 6. carbon and volatile organic compounds (15.3%) were Annual low-rate biochar strategy has an enormous first mineralized to CO (Wang et al. 2020) and then left potential to be conducted globally worldwide. Here are the hard to degraded and stabilized recalcitrant carbon three main reasons behind this claim. First, the biomass (Quilliam et al. 2013). Usually, biochar-liable carbon will needed for the annual low-rate biochar strategy is eas- be consumed after 2 years of field incubation (Yi et al. ily reachable and thus applicable for every square paddy. 2020). With low liable carbon of biochar presence in HS Moreover, as time flies, the increasing rice effect accu - treatment, recalcitrant carbon contributed to the main mulates with the soil’s total carbon content. Further, it’s carbon content of biochar and sufferedoxidation, thus pretty easy to operate by incorporating it in the field increasing the oxygen functional groups (Fig. 5d). A study before applying fertilizer. However, the biggest obstacle is by Yi et al. (Yi et al. 2020)explored long years of moi- the cost of the biochar production process. Lowering the ety changes of biochar after its application into the soil, production cost is the key to pushing the biochar applica- and reported that biochar recalcitrant carbon decreased tion from theory to practical application. by 8.7% after nine years . With a large amount of input, all biochar experienced the oxidation process synchro- 5 Conclusion nously, resulting in more LOC and less inert carbon. The 6 years of field experiments demonstrated a The result indicated that after 6 years of aging process, declined rice production promotion effect for HS and the recalcitrant composition of biochar also under- an economically promising biochar application strat- went an oxidation process, which contributed to lower egy for rice yield promoting products in AL. RS showed TOC in HS than in AL. In the other research, Nan et al. promising results in enhancing the rice yield due to (2020c) reported that annual low-rate biochar application its annual nutrients and active carbon supplementa- decreases CH emission stably. Combined with tardi- tion. However, the C H stimulation factor under this ness biochar oxidation in AL, the result is of great climate 4 Nan et al. Biochar (2023) 5:27 Page 10 of 13 Fig. 6 The conceptual figure of the supposed carbon loss mechanisms in HS. scenario should be seriously considered, especially con- productivity than HS in 2020., Moreover, a higher rice sidering the significant demand for pursuing carbon yield in AL during the following year is expected. The neutrality to combat climate change. HS also increased results highlighted the great environmental potential rice yield over 6 years. However, the rice-increas- benefits of this sustainable amendment strategy. ing effect of HS seems to be impaired in the 6th year A particularly intriguing consequence of our finding compared with AL. The sustainable AL model accu - is the higher soil TC in AL than in HS during the 6th mulated soil TC, guaranteed available soil nutrients, year, even with a lower biochar application rate. Fur- and increased soil pH, which resulted in higher rice ther exploration disclosed a fast inert biochar carbon Nan et al. Biochar (2023) 5:27 Page 11 of 13 Data curation, funding acquiring, revising, experiment design. All authors degradation in paddy, which resulted in lower soil TC commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and in HS than in AL. The evidence can be combined with approved the final manuscript. the insight that biochar stability in paddy fields under Funding rice growth has been overestimated. Of particular This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of interest, the results remind researchers of the biochar China [grant numbers 42077032 and 41571241] and the National Key Tech- stability variation in the paddy soils. This phenomenon nology Research and Development Program of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China [grant number 2015BAC02B01]. We gratefully acknowl- enlightens us with the significance of attention to the edge the financial support from the China Scholarship Council [grant number long-term soil quality improvement with biochar incor- 202106320251] and the Doctoral Rising Star Program of Zhejiang University. poration and elevation in the soil pH due to the acid Availability of data and materials nature. All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary fields. Abbreviations CK Control treatment Declarations −1 RS 8 T rice straw ha incorporation into paddy field annually −1 AL 2.8 T biochar ha incorporation into paddy field annually Competing interests −1 HS 22.5 T biochar ha incorporation into paddy field only in the first The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests year or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work GHGs Greenhouse gases emission reported in this paper. CH Methane DOC Dissolv ed soil organic carbon Author details NO-N Soil nitrate Institute of Environment Pollution Control and Treatment, College of Environ- ment and Resource Science, Zhejiang University, 310029 Hangzhou, People’s NH -N Soil ammonia Republic of China. Biogeo Department, Max Planck Institute for Marine Micro- TC Soil total carbon biology, Bremen, Germany. Department of Environmental Science, Kohat TN Soil total nitrogen University of Science and Technology, Kohat, KPK, Pakistan. TOC Soil total organic carbon MBC Microbial biomass carbon Received: 29 September 2022 Revised: 18 February 2023 Accepted: 7 LOC Liable organic carbon March 2023 LFOC Light fraction organic carbon POC Particular organic carbon MOC Mineral associate organic carbon HFOC Heavy fraction organic carbon CC Chronic organic carbon pool References: AC Active organic carbon pool Al-Wabel MI, Al-Omran A, El-Naggar AH, Nadeem M, Usman ARA (2013) IOC Inert organic carbon pool Pyrolysis temperature induced changes in characteristics and chemical IC Soil inorganic carbon composition of biochar produced from conocarpus wastes. Bioresource SI Supplementary Information file Technol 131:374–379. https:// doi. org/ 10. 1016/j. biort ech. 2012. 12. 165 EA Elemental analysis Awad YM, Wang J, Igalavithana AD, Tsang DCW, Kim K-H, Lee SS, Ok YS (2018) FTIR Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy Biochar Eec ff ts on Rice Paddy: Meta-analysis. 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Biochar – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 27, 2023
Keywords: Biochar; Annual low rate; Single high dose; Rice yield; Carbon fractions; Soil quality
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