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Direct and residual effect of biochar application on mycorrhizal root colonisation, growth and nutrition of wheat

Zakaria M. Solaiman A D , Paul Blackwell B , Lynette K. Abbott A and Paul Storer C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Earth and Environment (M087), Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Initiative and UWA Institute of Agriculture, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia, Geraldton Regional Office, WA 6530, Australia.

C Western Minerals Fertilisers Pty Ltd, Tenterden, WA, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Soil Research 48(7) 546-554
Submitted: 5 January 2010  Accepted: 28 June 2010   Published: 28 September 2010


The influence of biochar (biomass-derived black carbon) on crop growth and nutrient uptake varies based on the rate of biochar applied with fertilisers. We investigated the effect of deep-banded oil mallee biochar at different rates (0, 1.5, 3.0, and 6 t/ha) with 2 types of fertiliser (non-inoculated MultiMAPS® at 30 or 55 kg/ha; inoculated Western Mineral Fertiliser at 100 kg/ha) on wheat growth at a farmer’s field in a low rainfall area of Western Australia. Wheat yield increased significantly when biochar was applied with inoculated fertiliser and 30 kg/ha non-inoculated fertiliser. Mycorrhizal colonisation in wheat roots increased significantly with biochar application with inoculated mineral fertiliser. Mycorrhizal hyphae may have improved water supply to reduce drought stress in these treatments by extending crop exploration of water from the wide inter-rows. Grain yield increases were due to better grain survival and grain fill with reduced drought stress. Early stage phosphorus uptake was not improved by mycorrhizal colonisation—phosphorus supply from the soil and applied fertiliser was already adequate. The residual effect of biochar and mineral fertilisers was assessed using a mycorrhizal bioassay for soil collected from the field trial 2 years after application of biochar. Biochar and both fertilisers increased mycorrhizal colonisation in clover bioassay plants. Deep-banded biochar provided suitable conditions for mycorrhizal fungi to colonise plant roots.

Additional keywords: biochar, mineral fertilisers, mycorrhizal fungi, soluble fertilisers, wheat.


We thank Syd Shea, Sylvain Pottier, Yasuyuki Okimori, and Makoto Ogawa of Kansai Environmental Engineering Centre, Kansai Electric Co. Ltd, and General Environmental Technos Co., Ltd, Japan, and the Oil Mallee Co. for financial support, also Ausplow Ltd for the use of their plot airseeder. We also thank United Farmers Cooperative, Stephen Davies, Bill Bowden, John Bartle and Tony Vyn for assistance.


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