Biochar, pyrolyzed biomass, has been shown to be a promising way to improve plant productivity and soil quality. Biochar characteristics and its effect on plant performance depend strongly on the type of feedstock from which it is made. However, whether biochars produced from individual grassland species differ in their characteristics and effects on plant growth when applied to soil is poorly understood. The aim of this study was to examine how soil application of pyrolyzed and non-pyrolyzed biomass originating from different grassland species influences plant performance. We measured the growth of the forb Jacobaea vulgaris in soil amended with pyrolyzed or non-pyrolyzed biomass of seven different plant species, and in control soil without amendments. The characteristics (nutrient content, C:N) and effects on plant growth of both pyrolyzed and non-pyrolyzed biomass differed significantly between species from which the biomass originated (‘feedstock species’). For most feedstock species there was no relationship between the effects that the pyrolyzed and the non-pyrolyzed biomass had on plant performance. Our results show that pyrolyzed grassland species differ in their characteristics and their effect on plant growth when amended to soil. This shows that it is important to test what the effect of pyrolysing a chosen feedstock is on a species before applying it on a larger scale and that potentially biochar with predefined effects could be designed for specific purposes.
- litter decomposition