XEnhanced biological N2 fixation and yield of faba bean (Vicia faba L.) in an acid soil following biochar addition: dissection of causal mechanisms

Lukas Van Zwieten, University of New England
Terry J. Rose, Southern Cross University
David Herridge, University of New England
Stephen Kimber, NSW Department of Primary Industries
Josh Rust, NSW Department of Primary Industries
Annette Cowie, University of New England
Stephen Morris, NSW Department of Primary Industries

Abstract

Background and aims Acid soils constrain legume growth and biochars have been shown to address these constraints and enhance biological N2 fixation in glasshouse studies. A dissection of causal mechanisms from multiple crop field studies is lacking. Methods In a sub-tropical field study, faba bean (Vicia faba L.) was cultivated in rotation with corn (Zea mays) following amendment of two contrasting biochars, compost and lime in a rhodic ferralsol. Key soil parameters and plant nutrient uptake were investigated alongside stable 15N isotope methodologies to elucidate the causal mechanisms for enhanced biological N2 fixation and crop productivity. Results Biological N2 fixation was associated with plant Mo uptake, which was driven by reductions in soil acidity following lime and papermill (PM) biochar amendment. In contrast, crop yield was associated with plant P and B uptake, and amelioration of soil pH constraints. These were most effectively ameliorated by PM biochar as it addressed both pH constraints and low soil nutrient status. Conclusions While liming resulted in the highest biological N2 fixation, biochars provided greater benefits to faba bean yield by addressing P nutrition and ameliorating Al toxicity.