Application of nitrogen (N) fertilizer plus biochar may increase crop yield, but how biochar will interact with N fertilization to affect bioenergy crop switchgrass physiology, biomass, and soil CO2 emission (i.e., soil respiration) from switchgrass fields remains unclear. Here, we assessed this issue by conducting a field experiment near Nashville TN with two levels of biochar treatment (a control without biochar addition and biochar addition of 9 Mg ha−1), and four N fertilization levels (0 kg N ha−1, 17 kg N ha−1, 34 kg N ha−1, and 67 kg N ha−1, labeled as ON, LN, MN, and HN, respectively). Results showed that both biochar addition and N fertilization did not influence switchgrass leaf photosynthesis and biomass, but biochar addition enhanced leaf transpiration, and reduced water use efficiency. Soil respiration was reduced by biochar addition, but significantly enhanced by N fertilization. Biochar and N fertilization interactively influenced soil respiration and seasonal variation of soil respiration was mostly controlled by soil temperature. Our results indicated that switchgrass can maintain high productivity without much N input, at least for several years. The findings from this study are useful to optimize N fertilization and biochar addition in the switchgrass fields for maintaining relatively high productive switchgrass biomass while reducing soil CO2 emission.
Hui, D.; Yu, C.-L.; Deng, Q.; Saini, P.; Collins, K.; Koff, J.D. Weak Effects of Biochar and Nitrogen Fertilization on Switchgrass Photosynthesis, Biomass, and Soil Respiration. Agriculture 2018, 8, 143. https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture8090143