How Adding Biochar Improves Loessal Soil Fertility and Sunflower Yield on Consolidation Project Land on the Chinese Loess Plateau
Minmin Qiang 1, 2  
Jian'en Gao 1, 3, 2, 4  
Jianqiao Han 1, 3  
Haochen Zhang 1, 2  
Tingwu Lin 1, 2  
Shaobo Long 1, 2  
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Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China
Research Center on Soil and Water Conservation, Ministry of Water Resources, Yangling, China
Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Water Resources, Yangling, China
Research Center of Soil and Water Conservation and Ecological Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Education, Yangling, China
Jian'en Gao   

Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Northwest Agriculture and Forest University, Yangling, China
Online publication date: 2020-05-13
Publication date: 2020-06-08
Submission date: 2019-12-17
Final revision date: 2020-02-14
Acceptance date: 2020-02-14
Pol. J. Environ. Stud. 2020;29(5):3759–3769
Although a land consolidation project has increased arable land area in loess areas, the loessal soil has poor fertility and productivity. Soil degradation and the accompanying decline in crop yields are the main limiting factors for agricultural development on the Loess Plateau. Biochar has been used as an amendment to improve soil fertility and crop yields. A potted experiment was carried out to study the effects of biochar addition (0, 5, 15 and 25 t ha−1) on soil physicochemical properties as well as sunflower yield. The results showed that higher rates of biochar addition (15, 25 t ha−1) can significantly increase soil electrical conductivity, cation exchange capacity, nutrients and crop yields, while decreasing soil pH. The maximum soil nutrients were observed at 25 t ha−1 biochar addition. However, the lowest soil pH value and highest sunflower seed yield were obtained at 15 t ha−1 biochar addition. The highest net income was $985 ha−1 when the biochar addition rate was 15 t ha−1. These results suggest that biochar can significantly improve soil fertility and sunflower yield. Soil salinity and alkalinity properties, organic carbon, nitrate nitrogen and available phosphorus were crucial factors that determined soil fertility and sunflower yield in loessal soil.