What is it about?

Use of biochar for soil fertility improvement is gaining popularity due to its potential to improve soil quality, increase crop yield, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. In this study, we carried out a 40-day pot experiment to investigate the effects of corncob biochar and compost applied alone or in combination on selected soil physico-chemical properties, growth, and yield of maize on two soils of contrasting pH and texture collected from the Rainforest and Coastal Savannah agroecological zones of Ghana. Biochar and compost applied alone or in combination significantly increased soil pH, total organic carbon, available phosphorus, and mineral nitrogen. Further, the applications reduced exchangeable acidity, and increased effective cation exchange capacity in both soils. Additionally, combined application and single application biochar or compost additions increased the plant height, stem girth, and dry matter yields of two maize (local and hybrid ) varieties used in the study. The study showed that biochar applied alone or in combination with compost offers the potential to enhance soil quality and improve maize yield.

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Why is it important?

Many past studies had focused on biochar application for improving the soil fertility without considering the effects when combined with compost. Biochar, in most situations improves the soil properties by improving the pH, capturing and storing carbon in the soil for longer periods and retaining nutrients to be made available for several seasons for the next crops. However, major essential nutrients such as nitrogen are lacking in biochar especially biochar made from wood based materials. Combining with compost will provide a synergistic effects to improve the soil water holding capacity, improve soil structure and ensure efficiency of mineral fertiliser use. Our findings had demonstrated that combined application of compost and biochar has the capacity for ameliorating the soil physico-chemical properties, which in turn could benefit crop growth and yield. These strategies could be adopted by small holder and rural farmers in Sub-sahara Africa to improve their soils and maintain the fertility for longer periods. Moreover, our work had shown that biochar could be used as an alternative option to lime materials to raise pH of acidic soils.


This research gave us deeper insights into many benefits associated with biochar. Biochar does not only have the capacity to improving the physico-chemical properties of soils, it could also be used for remediation of potentially toxic elements such as As, Hg, Pb, Sb, V, Zn, etc in polluted and contaminated soils. The work further provided us the opportunity to develop other proposals for collaboration with other scientists in biochar works.

Albert Kobina Mensah
Ruhr-Universitat Bochum

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Biochar and/or Compost Applications Improve Soil Properties, Growth, and Yield of Maize Grown in Acidic Rainforest and Coastal Savannah Soils in Ghana, International Journal of Agronomy, June 2018, Hindawi Publishing Corporation,
DOI: 10.1155/2018/6837404.
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