A quantitative understanding of the role of co-composted biochar in plant growth using meta-analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The combined use of biochar and compost as a soil amendment presents benefits to crops and nutrient cycling. Although there are literature reviews regarding biochar and biochar-compost mixtures, a quantitative literature review on the role of co-composted biochar (hereby called COMBI) in plant productivity is currently missing. The goal of this review paper is to find evidence-based measures of the effects of application rates, soil pH, plant types, biochar feedstock, and compost materials, on plant productivity. Plant productivity covers a variety of measurements but mostly refers to grain yield and above-ground biomass. Response ratio was selected as the effect size. Funnel plot showed that the studies were reasonably symmetrically distributed around the mean effect size. Results showed that application rates of <20 t/ha and >30 t/ha significantly increased plant productivity by 48.3 and 15.7%, respectively, while no significant yield increases were found for the application rates between 20 and 30 t/ha. When data was grouped based on the soil pH, the greatest increase in plant productivity was found to be at acidic soil pH values (pH 4–5), which was expected because the liming effect of biochar is often reported as one of the main mechanisms behind the increased crop yields. When different plant species were compared, cereal grasses grown with COMBI yielded significantly higher grain yields (39.7%). Rice husk biochar yielded the highest increase in productivity but this result was based on only one study. The second highest increase was obtained with wood-based biochars (29.4%) based on ten studies. The effect sizes found with our meta-analyses are based on 14 research works worldwide and represent the most updated information regarding the effects of COMBI on plant production. As more data on COMBI become available, data analyses can be updated to make more robust comparisons.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)741-752
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Biochar
  • Compost
  • Crops
  • Manure
  • Meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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