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Paddy rice yield and greenhouse gas emissions: Any trade-off due to co-application of biochar and nitrogen fertilizer? A systematic review

Combined application of biochar and nitrogen (N) fertilizer could offer opportunities to increase rice yield and reduce methane emissions from paddy fields. However, this strategy may increase nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, hence its interactive effects on GHG emissions, global warming potential (GWP) and GHG intensity (GHGI) remained poorly understood. We conducted a systematic review to i) evaluate the overall effects of combined application of biochar and N fertilizer rates on GHGs emissions, GWP, rice yield, and GHGI, ii) determine the quantities of biochar and N-fertilizer application that increase rice yield and reduce GHGs emissions and GHGI, and iii) examine the effects of biochar and different types of nitrogen fertilizers on rice yield, GHGs, GWP, and GHGI using data from 45 research articles and 183 paired observations. The extracted data were grouped based on biochar and N rates used by researchers as well as N fertiliser types. Accordingly, biochar rates were grouped into low (≤9 tons/ha), medium (>9 and ≤ 20 ton/ha) and high (>20 tons/ha), while N rates were grouped into three categories: low (≤140 kg N/ha), medium (>140 and ≤ 240 kg N/ha), and high (>240 kg N/ha). For fertiliser types, N rates were grouped as: low (≤150 kg N/ha), medium (>150 and ≤250 kg N/ha), and high (>250 kg N/ha) and N types into: urea, NPK, NPK plus urea (NPK_urea) and NPK plus (NH4)2SO4 (NPK_(NH4)2SO4). Results showed that biochar and N fertiliser significantly affected GHGs emissions, GWP, GHGI and rice yield. Compared to control (i.e., sole N application), co-application of high biochar and medium N rates significantly decreased CH4 emission (82 %) while low biochar with low N rates enhanced CH4 emission (114 %). In contrast, high biochar combined with low N decreased N2O emission by 91 % whereas medium biochar and high N rates resulted in 82 % increase in N2O emission relative to control. The highest GWP and GHGI were observed under co-application of medium biochar and low N rates. Highest rice yield was observed under low biochar rate and high N rate. Regardless of N fertiliser type and biochar rates, increasing N rates increased rice yield and N2O emissions. The highest GWP and GHGI were recorded under sole NPK application. Combination of low biochar and medium N produced low GHGs emissions, high grain yield, and the lowest GHGI, and could be recommended to smallholder farmers to increase rice yield and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from paddy rice field. Further studies should be conducted to evaluate the effects of biochar properties on soil characteristics and greenhouse gas emissions.

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