Evaluating slow pyrolysis of Parthenium hysterophorus biochar: perspectives to acidic soil amelioration and growth of selected wheat (Triticum aestivum) varieties.
Application of biochar on acidic soils may improve soil fertility and crop productivity. This study aimed to explore the relevance of parthenium biochar-induced changes in the physicochemical properties and agronomic performance of the selected wheat varieties in acidic soils. A pot trial was used in determining the effect of slow pyrolysis parthenium biochar on acidic soils and the agronomic performance of wheat varieties. A general linear model (GLM) of multivariate analysis and principal component analysis (PCA) was used to compare functional variation among soil assayed parameters with biochar dosages and years. Biochar-treated acidic soils did not show significant differences in their physical properties. However, a significant incremental trend was observed in the soil moisture content. The biochar-amended acidic soils showed noticeable differences in the soil pH, available phosphorous, and exchangeable bases (Ca, K, and Na) compared to the control. In all soil samples, a decreasing trend in the soil micronutrients was observed with an increase in the biochar amounts. The analysis also unveiled significant changes in root length, root and shoot dry biomass, and plant height of wheat varieties in response to the biochar amendments. The application of 19.5 t/ha and 23 t/ha dosages of biochar gave the maximum changes in the agronomic performance of Kekeba and Ogolcha varieties, while the minimum was obtained in the 26.5 t/ha and the control. Furthermore, PCA axis 1 accounted for 74.34% of the total variance within a higher eigenvector value (10.4076), and most of the soil parameters were positively correlated with CEC (0.29), available phosphorous (0.29), and soil pH (0.28); however, the micronutrients were negatively correlated. In conclusion, Parthenium hysterophorus biochar has the potential to amend acidic soils, and thus, the application of 16.0, 19.5, and 23 t.ha-1 biochar dosages are considered suitable to reduce the soil acidity level and improve the agronomic performance of wheat varieties. However, extensive research will be needed to determine the effects of biochar on soil properties and crop production in field conditions.