Skip Navigation Links
Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management
António Mendes Lopes (editor), Jiazhong Zhang(editor)
António Mendes Lopes (editor)

University of Porto, Portugal


Jiazhong Zhang (editor)

School of Energy and Power Engineering, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, Shaanxi Province 710049, China

Fax: +86 29 82668723 Email:

Impact of Biochar Amendment on Soil Quality and Crop Yield in a Greenhouse Environment

Journal of Environmental Accounting and Management 6(4) (2018) 313--324 | DOI:10.5890/JEAM.2018.12.004

Rossana Marzaioli$^{1}$, Elio Coppola$^{1}$, Paola Iovieno$^{2}$, Alfonso Pentangelo$^{2}$, Catello Pane$^{2}$, Flora Angela Rutigliano$^{1}$

$^{1}$ Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Ambientali, Biologiche e Farmaceutiche, Università degli Studi della Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”, Caserta 81100, Italy

$^{2}$ Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria – Centro di ricerca Orticoltura e Florovivaismo, Pontecagnano 84091, Italy

Download Full Text PDF



Greenhouse agriculture, a widespread practice in the Mediterranean basin, is prone to impoverishment in soil organic carbon because of crop removal and high decomposition rate. Open-field experimentation has shown that the addition of biochar, a product of thermochemical conversion of biomass, under a limited concentration of oxygen, increases the soil organic C pool, enhances crop productivity and improves C terrestrial sink. The present study investigates the effect of biochar amendment in a greenhouse environment in a Southern Italy organic farm. Two doses (10 or 20 t ha-1) of biochar from conifer pruning wastes were applied immediately before planting 1-week old plants of pepper (Capsicum annuum L.). Plant growth and crop yield were evaluated six months later, at the end of cultivation, in biochar-treated and in control (without biochar) plots. Soil samples were collected in the same plots immediately after biochar addition and six months later and were analyzed for the following parameters: bulk density, water- holding capacity, pH, electrical conductivity, organic carbon, mineral nitrogen, total microbial biomass and fungal mycelium contents, soil respiration, nitrogen mineralization, potential nitrification, soil suppressiveness to Rhizoctonia solani. A single biochar application caused no apparent damage to the crop; on the other hand, no improvement was observed in crop yield or soil suppressiveness to R. solani. In contrast, the single char application positively affected soil respiration, nitrogen mineralization and potential nitrification. These preliminary results suggest that soil amendment with biochar is a potentially useful practice in greenhouse agriculture, yet further experimentation is necessary to assess optimal amounts for better crop productivity and soil quality.


We thank Idea Natura Soc. Coop. Agr. to allow the experimentation and Prof. Roberto Ligrone for helpful comments during the preparation of the manuscript.


  1. [1]  Adhikari, K. and Hartemink, A.E. (2016), Linking soils to ecosystem services - A global review, Geoderma, 262, 101-111.
  2. [2]  Allen, S.E. (1989), Chemical Analysis of Ecological Materials, Blackwell Scientific Publications.
  3. [3]  Anderson, N.J.P.E. and Domsch, K.H. (1978), A Physiological method for the quantitative measurement of microbial biomass in soils, Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 10, 215-221.
  4. [4]  Asai, H., Samson, B.K., Stephan, H.M., Songyikhangsuthor, K., Inoue, Y., Shiraiwa, T., and Horie, T. (2009), Biochar amendment techniques for upland rice production in Northern Laos: soil physical properties, leaf SPAD and grain yield, Field Crops Research, 111, 81-84.
  5. [5]  Baldock, J.A. and Smernik, R.J. (2002), Chemical composition and bioavailability of thermally altered Pinus resinosa (Red pine) wood, Organic Geochemistry, 33, 1093-1109.
  6. [6]  Baronti, S., Alberti, G., Delle Vedove, G., Di Gennaro, F., Fellet, G., Genesio, L., Miglietta, F., Peressotti, A., and Vaccari, F.P. (2010), The biochar option to improve plant yields: First results from some field and pot experiments in Italy, Italian Journal of Agronomy, 5, 3-11.
  7. [7]  Baronti, S., Vaccari, F.P., Miglietta, F., Calzolari, C., Lugato, E., Orlandini, S., Pini, R., Zulian, C., and Genesio, L. (2014), Impact of biochar application on plant water relations in Vitis vinifera (L.), European Journal of Agronomy, 53, 38-44.
  8. [8]  Bedussi, F., Zaccheo, P., and Crippa, L. (2015), Pattern of pore water nutrients in planted and non-planted soilless substrates as affected by the addition of biochars from wood gasification, Biology & Fertility of Soils, 51, 625-635.
  9. [9]  Beesley, L., Moreno-Jiménez, E., and Gomez-Eyles, J.L. (2010), Effects of biochar and greenwaste compost amendments on mobility, bioavailability and toxicity of inorganic and organic contaminants in a multi-element polluted soil, Environmental Pollution, 158, 2282-2287.
  10. [10]  Bonanomi, G., D'Ascoli, R., Antignani, V., Capodilupo, M., Cozzolino, L., Marzaioli, R., Puopolo, G., Rutigliano, F.A., Scelza, R., Scotti, R., Rao, M.A., and Zoina, A. (2011), Assessing soil quality under intensive cultivation and tree orchards in Southern Italy, Applied Soil Ecology, 47, 187-194.
  11. [11]  Bonanomi, G., D'Ascoli, R., Scotti, R., Gaglione, S.A., Caceres, M.G., Sultana, S., Rao, M., and Zoina, A. (2014), Soil quality recovery and crop yield enhancement by combined application of compost and wood to vegetables grown under plastic tunnels, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 192, 1-7.
  12. [12]  Castaldi, S., Carfora, A., Natale, A., Messere, A., Miglietta, F., and Cotrufo, M.F. (2009), Inhibition of net nitrification activity in a Mediterranean woodland: possible role of chemicals produced by Arbutus unedo, Plant and Soil, 315, 273-283.
  13. [13]  Castaldi, S., Riondino, M., Baronti, S., Esposito, F.R., Marzaioli, R., Rutigliano, F.A., Vaccari, F.P., and Miglietta, F.(2011), Impact of biochar application to a wheat crop on soil microbial activity and greenhouse gas fluxes, Chemosphere, 85, 1464-1471.
  14. [14]  Chen, Q., Zhang, X., Zhang, H., Christi, P., Li, X., Horlacher, D., and Liebig, H.P. (2004), Evaluation of current fertilizer practice and soil fertility in vegetable production in the Beijing region, Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, 69, 51-58.
  15. [15]  Cheng, C.H., Lehmann, J., Thies, J.E., Burton, S.D., and Engelhard, M.H. (2006), Oxidation of black carbon by biotic and abiotic processes, Organic Geochemistry, 37, 1477-1488.
  16. [16]  De Corato, U., Pane, C., Bruno, G.L., Cancellara, F.A., and Zaccardelli, M. (2015), Co-products from a biofuel production chain in crop disease management: A review, Crop Protection, 68, 12-26.
  17. [17]  Deenik, J.L., McClellan, T., Uehara, G., Antal, M.J., and Campbell, S. (2010), Charcoal volatile matter content influences plant growth and soil nitrogen transformations, Soil Science Society of America Journal, 74, 1259-1270.
  18. [18]  Dutta, T., Kwon, E., Bhattacharya, S.S., Jeon, B.H., Deep, A., Uchimiya, M., and Kim, K.H. (2017), Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds in biochar and biochar-amended soil: a review, GCB Bioenergy, 9, 990- 1004.
  19. [19]  Gartler, J., Robinson, B., Burton, K., and Clucas, L. (2013), Carbonaceous soil amendments to biofortify crop plants with zinc, Science of the Total Environment, 465, 308-313.
  20. [20]  IBI- International Biochar Initiative (2013), Standardized product definition and product testing guidelines for biochar that used in Soil. p. 1-48, http://www.biochar- Biochar Standards V1.1.pdf.
  21. [21]  ISTAT (2010) - VI Censimento Generale dell'Agricoltura,
  22. [22]  Jaiswal, A.K., Elad, Y., Graber, E.R., and Frenkel, O. (2014), Rhizoctonia solani suppression and plant growth promotion in cucumber as affected by biochar pyrolysis temperature, feedstock and concentration, Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 69, 110-118.
  23. [23]  Joergensen, R.G. and Emmerling, C. (2006), Methods for evaluating human impact on soil microorganisms based on their activity, biomass, and diversity in agricultural soils, Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, 169, 295-309.
  24. [24]  Karlen, D.L., Mausbach, M.J., Doran, J.W., Cline, R.G., Harris, R.F., and Schuman, G.E. (1997), Soil quality: a concept, definition, and framework for evaluation, Soil Science Society of America Journal, 61, 4-10.
  25. [25]  Kaur, T., Brar, B.S., and Dhillon, N.S. (2008), Soil organic matter dynamics as affected by long term use of organic and inorganic fertilizers under maize-wheat cropping system, Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, 81, 59-69.
  26. [26]  Kieft, T.L., White, C.S., Loftin, S.R., Aguilar, R., Craig, J.A., and Skaar, D.A. (1998), Temporal dynamics in soil carbon and nitrogen resources at a grassland-shrubland ecotone, Ecology, 79, 671-683.
  27. [27]  Laird, D.A., Fleming, P., Davis, D.D., Horton, R., Wang, B., and Karlen, D.L. (2010), Impact of biochar amendments on the quality of a typical Midwestern agricultural soil, Geoderma, 158, 443-449.
  28. [28]  Lamont, W.J. (2005), Plastics: Modifying the microclimate for the production of vegetable crops, HortTechnology, 15, 477-481.
  29. [29]  Lehmann, J., Gaunt, J., and Rondon, M. (2006), Biochar sequestration in terrestrial ecosystems: a review, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 11, 403-427.
  30. [30]  Lehmann, J., Rillig, M.C., Thi, J., Masiello, C.A., Hockaday,W.C., and Crowley, D. (2011), Biochar effects on soil biota: a review, Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 43, 1812-1836.
  31. [31]  Mahmood, S., Finlay, R.D., Fransson, A.M., andWallander, H. (2003), Effects of hardened wood ash on microbial activity, plant growth and nutrient uptake by ectomycorrhiza spruce seedlings, FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 43, 121-131.
  32. [32]  Nannipieri, P., Giagnoni, L., Renella, G., Puglisi, E., Ceccanti, B., Masciandaro, G., Fornasier, F., Moscatelli, M.C., and Marinari, S. (2012), Soil enzymology: classical and molecular approaches, Biology and Fertility of Soils, 48, 743-762.
  33. [33]  Nik-Azar, M., Hajaligol, M.R., Sohrabi, M., and Dabir, B. (1997), Mineral matter effects in rapid pyrolysis of beech wood, Fuel Processing Technology, 51, 7-17.
  34. [34]  Olson, F.C.W. (1950), Quantitative estimates of filamentous algae, Transactions of the American Microscopical Society, 69, 272-279.
  35. [35]  Pane, C., Piccolo, A., Spaccini, R., Celano, G., Villecco, D., and Zaccardelli, M. (2013), Agriculturalwaste-based composts exhibiting suppressivity to diseases caused by the phytopathogenic soil-borne fungi Rhizoctonia solani and Sclerotinia minor, Applied Soil Ecology, 65, 43-51.
  36. [36]  Pane, C., Spaccini, R., Piccolo, A., Scala, F., and Bonanomi, G. (2011), Compost amendments enhance peat suppressiveness to Pythium ultimum, Rhizoctonia solani and Sclerotinia minor, Biological Control, 56, 115-124.
  37. [37]  Powlson, D.S., Brookes, P.C., and Christensen, B.T. (1987), Measurement of soil microbial biomass provides an early indication of changes in total soil organic matter due to straw incorporation, Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 19, 159-164.
  38. [38]  Raveendran, K., Ganesh, A., and Khilar, K.C. (1995), Influence of mineral matter on biomass pyrolysis characteristics, Fuel, 74, 1812-1822.
  39. [39]  Rutigliano, F.A., Romano, M., Marzaioli, R., Baglivo, I., Baronti, S., Miglietta, F., and Castaldi, S. (2014), Effect of biochar addition on soil microbial community in a wheat crop, European Journal of Soil Biology, 60, 9-15.
  40. [40]  Scarascia-Mugnozza, G., Sica, C., and Russo, G. (2011), Plastic materials in European agriculture: actual use and perspectives, Journal of Agriculture Engineering, 42, 15-28.
  41. [41]  Schmidt, H.P., Kammann, C., Niggli, C., Evangelou, M.W., Mackie, K.A., and Abiven, S. (2014), Biochar and biocharcompost as soil amendments to a vineyard soil: influences on plant growth, nutrient uptake, plant health and grape quality, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 191, 117-123.
  42. [42]  Scotti, R., Pane, C., Spaccini, R., Palese, A.M., Piccolo, A., Celano, G., and Zaccardelli, M. (2016), On-farm compost: a useful tool to improve soil quality under intensive farming systems, Applied Soil Ecology, 107, 13-23.
  43. [43]  Sleutel, S., De Neve, S., Singier, B., and Hofman, G. (2007), Quantification of organic carbon in soils: a comparison of methodologies and assessment of the carbon content of organic matter, Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 38, 2647-2657.
  44. [44]  Smider, B. and Singh, B. (2014), Agronomic performance of a high ash biochar in two contrasting soils, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 191, 99-107.
  45. [45]  Smith, J.L., Collins, H.P., and Bailey, V.L. (2010), The effect of young biochar on soil respiration, Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 42, 2345-2347.
  46. [46]  Smith, P., Powlson, D., Glendining, M., and Smith, J.O. (1997), Potential for carbon sequestration in European soils: preliminary esti-mates for five scenarios using results from long-term experiments, Global Change Biology, 3, 67-79.
  47. [47]  Spokas, K.A. and Reicosky, D.C. (2009), Impacts of sixteen different biochars on soil greenhouse gas production, Annals of Environ-mental Science, 3, 179-193.
  48. [48]  Steinbeiss, S., Gleixner, G., and Antonietti, M. (2009), Effect of biochar amendment on soil carbon balance and soil microbial activity, Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 41, 1301-1310.
  49. [49]  Steiner, C., de Arruda, M.R., Teixeira, W.G., and Zech, W. (2008), Soil respiration curves as soil fertility indicators in perennial central Amazonian plantations treated with charcoal, and mineral or organic fertilisers, Tropical Science, 47, 218-230.
  50. [50]  Sundman, V. and Sivelä, S. (1978), A comment on the membrane filter technique for estimation of length of fungal hyphae in soil, Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 10, 399-401.
  51. [51]  Thies, J.E. and Rillig, M.C. (2009), Characteristics of biochar: biological properties. In: Lehmann J., Joseph S., eds. Biochar for Environmental Management: Science and Technology. Earthscan, London, UK, 85-105.
  52. [52]  USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (2004), Soil Survey Laboratory Methods Manual. Soil Survey Investigations Report No. 42, Version 4. 0. In: Burc R, ed., National Soil Survey Center, Lincoln, NE.
  53. [53]  Vaccari, F.P., Baronti, S., Lugato, E., Genesio, L., Castaldi, S., Fornasier, F., and Miglietta, F. (2011), Biochar as a strategy to sequester carbon and increase yield in durum wheat, European Journal of Agronomy, 34, 231-238.
  54. [54]  Vaccari, F.P., Maienza, A., Miglietta, F., Baronti, S., Di Lonardo, S., Giagnoni, L., Lagomarsino, A., Pozzi, A., Pusceddu, E., and Ranieri, R. (2015), Biochar stimulates plant growth but not fruit yield of processing tomato in a fertile soil, Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 207, 63-170.
  55. [55]  Vance, E.D., Brokes, P.C., and Jenkins, D.S. (1987), An extraction method for measuring soil microbial biomass C, Soil Biology & Bio-chemistry, 9, 703-707.
  56. [56]  Vanlauwe, B., Bationo, A., Chianu, J., Giller, K.E., Merckx, R., Mokwunye, U., Ohiokpehai, O., Pypers, P., Tabo, R., Shepherd, K.D., Smaling, E.M.A., Woomer, P.L., and Sanginga, N. (2010), Integrated soil fertility management: operational definition and conse-quences for implementation and dissemination, Outlook Agriculture, 39, 17-24.
  57. [57]  Walkey, A. and Black, I.A. (1934), An examination of the Degtjareff method for determining soil organic matter, and a proposed modification of the chromic acid titration method, Soil Science, 34, 29-38.
  58. [58]  Warnock, D.D., Lehman, J., Kuype, T.W., and Rillig, M.C. (2007), Mycorrhizal responses to biochar in soil concepts and mechanisms, Plant and Soil, 300, 9-20.
  59. [59]  Warnock, D.D., Mummey, D.L., McBride, B., Major, J., Lehmann, J., and Rillig, M.C. (2010), Influences of nonherbaceous biochar on arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal abundances in roots and soils: Results from growth-chamber and field experiments, Applied Soil Ecology, 46, 450-456.
  60. [60]  Xu, H.J., Wang, X.H., Li, H., Yao, H.Y., Su, J.Q., and Zhu, Y.G. (2014), Biochar impacts soil microbial community composition and nitrogen cycling in an acidic soil planted with rape, Environmental Science & Technology, 48, 9391- 9399.