Plant and Soil

, Volume 366, Issue 1–2, pp 213–227 | Cite as

Contrasting effects of manure and green waste biochars on the properties of an acidic ferralsol and productivity of a subtropical pasture

  • P. G. Slavich
  • K. Sinclair
  • S. G. Morris
  • S. W. L. Kimber
  • A. Downie
  • L. Van Zwieten
Regular Article


Background and Aim

We hypothesised that amending an acidic ferralsol with biochar would improve the productivity of a subtropical dairy pasture via reducing soil acidity related constraints and result in improved nitrogen use efficiency. We examined two contrasting biochars with different carbon, nutrient content and acid neutralising values.


Field plots were amended with one of three biochar treatments (Nil, feedlot manure biochar [FM], green waste biochar [GW]) in combination with presence or absence of NPK fertiliser and presence or absence of liming. The FM and GW biochars had a carbon content of 44 and 76 %, available phosphorous of 5,960 and 93 mg kg−1, and liming values of 13 and 5.6 %, respectively. The pasture was managed to supply year round high quality feed for dairy production.


The FM biochar increased total pasture productivity by 11 % and improved the agronomic nitrogen use efficiency by 23 %. It also reduced soil acidity but did not significantly affect the pH dependent soil cation exchange capacity. The GW biochar did not improve pasture productivity. Both biochars resulted in an increase in the soil carbon density.


The high available phosphorous content of FM biochar makes it an effective amendment for acidic ferralsols. Greenwaste biochar did not have sufficient acid neutralising capacity or phosphorous content to reduce soil acidity constraints. Both biochars enhance soil carbon storage in pasture systems on ferralsol.


Biochar Ferralsol Soil carbon Soil phosphorous Soil acidity 


Soil C

Soil carbon

FM biochar

Feedlot manure biochar

GW biochar

Greenwaste biochar


Cation exchange capacity



The authors acknowledge the technical assistance provided by RH Bryant, A Janestski, S Petty, B Keen and J Rust in the conduct of these field studies. This work was undertaken as a component project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research entitled ‘Improving the utilisation of water and soil resources for tree crop production in coastal areas of Vietnam and NSW’ (ACIAR project SMCN 2003-035). The authors would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their suggestions for improvement.

Supplementary material

11104_2012_1412_MOESM1_ESM.doc (25 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 25 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. G. Slavich
    • 1
  • K. Sinclair
    • 1
  • S. G. Morris
    • 1
  • S. W. L. Kimber
    • 1
  • A. Downie
    • 2
  • L. Van Zwieten
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.New South Wales Department of Primary IndustriesWollongbarAustralia
  2. 2.Pacific Pyrolysis P/LSomersbyAustralia
  3. 3.Rural Climate SolutionsUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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