University of Oulu

Guo, L., Yu, H., Kharbach, M., Zhang, W., Wang, J., & Niu, W. (2021). Biochar Improves Soil-Tomato Plant, Tomato Production, and Economic Benefits under Reduced Nitrogen Application in Northwestern China. Plants, 10(4), 759. doi:10.3390/plants10040759

Biochar improves soil-tomato plant, tomato production, and economic benefits under reduced nitrogen application in northwestern China

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Author: Guo, Lili1,2,3; Yu, Huiwen4; Kharbach, Mourad5;
Organizations: 1College of Water Resources and Architectural Engineering, Northwest A&F University, Weihui Road 23, Yangling 712100, China
2Department of Plant and Environmental Science, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Højbakkegaard Alle 13, DK-2630 Taastrup, Denmark
3Key Laboratory of Agricultural Soil and Water Engineering in Arid and Semiarid Areas, Ministry of Education, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100, China
4Department of Food Science, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Rolighedsvej 26, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
5Research Unit of Mathematical Sciences, University of Oulu, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland
6College of Resources and Environment, Shanxi University of Finance and Economics, Taiyuan 030000, China
7Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100, China
8Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, CAS &MWR, Yangling 712100, China
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.2 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-05-06


The tomato is an important economic crop that is a main ingredient of some prepared food as well as a focus of the agricultural industry. Optimizing nitrogen (N) fertilizers is essential for sustainable agricultural development, while the excessive use of N fertilizers leads to environmental and food production problems. As a soil amendment, biochar has been widely used to improve soil quality and crop yield. However, little information is available on the effects of biochar and N fertilizer reduction on tomato plant, soil characteristics in tomato cultivation and tomato production. In this study, a greenhouse experiment was carried out in Yangling, Shaanxi province, China, including four biochar levels (0, 30, 50, and 70 t ha⁻¹) under drip irrigation and four N application rates (170, 190, 210, and 250 kg ha⁻¹). The results showed that adding too much biochar (e.g., 70 t ha⁻¹) and reducing N fertilizer too far (e.g., by 32%) will not lead to satisfactory results in terms of tomato growth, tomato yield and quality, and economic benefits. Biochar addition could significantly enhance microbial abundance, enzyme activity, and tomato growth compared with non‒biochar treatments when reducing the amount of applied N fertilizer by 16% or 24% (N2 and N3). From the perspectives of tomato yield, tomato quality (sugar‒acid ratio and vitamin C (VC) content), and economic benefits, optimal application rate of biochar and N fertilizer based on the silty clay loam soil of northwest China under drip irrigation is proposed, respectively. The proposal is based on both multidimensional nonlinear regression models and a comparison with experimental treatments. For example, biochar addition at 50 t ha⁻¹ and reducing N fertilizer by 24% achieved the greatest tomato yield. Compared with non-biochar treatment under the corresponding N fertilizer level, soil enzyme activity (urease, phosphatase, and catalase), microbial abundance (bacteria, fungi, and actinomycetes), leaf gas exchange parameters (gs, Pn, and Tr), and biomass increased on average by 88.76%, 7.49%, 43.23%, and 39.67%, respectively. Based on a comprehensive consideration of tomato yield, VC content, sugar‒acid ratio, and economic benefits, 35 t ha⁻¹ biochar and 200 kg ha⁻¹ N fertilizer is the recommended combination of biochar and nitrogen fertilizer for local farmers.

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Series: Plants
ISSN: 2223-7747
ISSN-E: 2223-7747
ISSN-L: 2223-7747
Volume: 10
Issue: 4
Article number: 759
DOI: 10.3390/plants10040759
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 4111 Agronomy
Funding: Lili Guo thanks the Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) for supporting her study at the Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Copyright information: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (