Results showed an overall small, but statistically significant, benefit of biochar application to soils on crop productivity, with a grand mean increase of 10%. However, the mean results for each analysis performed within the meta-analysis covered a wide range (from -28% to 39%). The greatest (positive) effects with regard to soil analyses were seen in acidic (14%) and neutral pH soils (13%), and in soils with a coarse (10%) or medium texture (13%). This suggests that two of the main mechanisms for yield increase may be a liming effect and an improved water holding capacity of the soil, along with improved crop nutrient availability. The greatest positive result was seen in biochar applications at a rate of 100 t ha-1 (39%). Of the biochar feedstocks considered and in relation to crop productivity, poultry litter showed the strongest (significant) positive effect (28%), in contrast to biosolids, which were the only feedstock showing a statistically significant negative effect (-28%). However, many auxiliary data sets (i.e. information concerning co-variables) are incomplete and the full range of relevant soil types, as well as environmental and management conditions are yet to be investigated. Furthermore, only short-term studies limited to periods of 1 to 2 years are currently available. This paper highlights the need for a strategic research effort, to allow elucidation of mechanisms, differentiated by environmental and management factors and to include studies over longer time frames.
The Biochar Meta-analysis Database is being made publically available in order that the meta-analysis can be updated as new results become available. The matrix table is also available for download as a reference, to increase the ease at which studies can be found which have been attributed to each group. The database has been used for the meta-analysis in the following publication:S. Jeffery, F.G.A. Verheijen, M. van der Velde, A.C. Bastos (2011) A quantitative review of the effects of biochar application to soils on crop productivity using meta-analysis. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. Volume 144, Issue 1, November 2011, Pages 175–187
Biochar Meta-analysis DatabaseMatrix Table