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Potential Application of Biochar Depends Mainly on Its Profits for Farmers: Case Study in Slovakia

Potential Application of Biochar Depends Mainly on Its Profits for Farmers: Case Study in Slovakia Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), 66, 2020 (4): 171 − 176 Short communication DOI: 10.2478/agri-2020-0016 POTENTIAL APPLICATION OF BIOCHAR DEPENDS MAINLY ON ITS PROFITS FOR FARMERS: CASE STuDY IN SLOv AkIA Vladimír Šimanský*, ElE na a ydin, duŠan igaz, Ján Horák Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra, Slovak Republic ŠIMANSKÝ, V. – AYDIN, E. − IGAZ, D. − HORÁK, J.: Potential application of biochar depends mainly on its profits for farmers: case study in Slovakia. Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), vol. 66, no. 4, pp. 171 – 176. Current biochar application in the global agronomic practice focuses firstly on economic profits. In this paper, we would like to draw attention to our results and experience from the economic assessment of the agronomic effect of applied biochar through the generated crop yields. The results come from a field experiment (locality Dolná Malanta, Slovakia, silt loam Haplic Luvisol – the most intensively used soil in the Slovak Republic for agricultural purposes), where a biochar experiment was established in 2014. Based on our data, it is evident that both the application of biochar and its application in combination with N-fertilisation in field conditions at current realization prices of commodities in individual years and high input costs are still unprofitable. However, we emphasize that from an economic point of view of the standard agronomic practice. Key words: farmers; biochar; economic profit Biochar is the solid product of pyrolysis – ther- et al. 2020; Horák et al. 2020b) and significant book mal degradation of organic material in the absence publications sharing the observations of European of air – and one of the three products (bio-oil, syn- (Shackley et al. 2016), but also world (Verheijen gas, biochar). Biochar is the name given to charcoal et al. 2009; Lehmann et al. 2015; Rakshit et al. 2019) products intended for use in the agronomic and en- biochar experiments have been written. The individ- vironmental applications. There has been a huge ual studies mainly focused on the effects of biochar interest “boom” in the scientific community in the or its combination with other fertilisers (organic, last ten years related to biochar application. Inspira- mineral) on soil properties, including soil chemistry, tion was taken from past soil management and bio- physical state and soil biological properties, seques- char has been studied under controlled laboratory tration of C in the soil as a significant mitigation and field conditions. A number of scientific reviews concen- mechanism eliminating the increase of CO (Jeffery et al. 2011; Barrow 2012; Lone et al. 2015; tration in the atmosphere. The impact of biochar on Tammeorg et al. 2017; El-Naggar et al. 2019; Han crop yields is central to its application in agriculture. doc. Ing. Vladimír Šimanský, PhD. (* Corresponding author), Department of Soil Science, FAFR – SUA Nitra, 949 76 Nitra, Tr. A. Hlinku 2, Slovak Republic. E-mail: Vladimir.Simansky@uniag.sk Ing. Elena Aydın, PhD., Department of Biometeorology and Hydrology, HLEF – SUA Nitra, 949 76 Nitra, Hospodárska 7, Slovak Republic. E-mail: elena.aydin@uniag.sk doc. Ing. Ján Horák, PhD., Department of Biometeorology and Hydrology, HLEF – SUA Nitra, 949 76 Nitra, Hospodárska 7, Slovak Republic. E-mail: jan.horak@uniag.sk prof. Ing. Dušan Igaz, PhD., Department of Biometeorology and Hydrology, HLEF – SUA Nitra, 949 76 Nitra, Hospodárska 7, Slovak Republic. E-mail: dusan.igaz@uniag.sk © 2020 Authors. This is an open access article licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonComercial-NoDerivs License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/). 171 Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), 66, 2020 (4): 171 − 176 The conclusions of many studies identified positive this area that need to be addressed, biochar has been as well as negative aspects of biochar application. identified by many scientific teams as a potential However, the positive effect, especially on the soil agronomic tool for sustainable land management properties, was dominant. In most cases, a positive (El-Naggar et al. 2019; Horák et al. 2020b; Rak- environmental effect on greenhouse gas emissions shit et al. 2019; Rizhiya et al. 2019; Šimanský et reduction from soil to atmosphere was observed as al. 2019). In addition to the positive effects on the well. Considering the information available so far, soil environment, its potential to solve ecology and it is evident that the results differ depending on the waste management issues with the elimination of soil-climatic conditions, but also on the properties negative environmental impacts was also identified. of the applied biochar or its combination with other The interest in biochar application is largely driven fertilisers. Even though there are knowledge gaps in by its use as a climate change mitigation agent; lead- T a b l e 1 Data for calculation of economy costs in the relevant year Costs of Application rates Costs of biochar 1 ton of Commodity prices per 1 ton of biochar application in the field biochar [Eur] [t/ha] [Eur] [Eur] 10 16 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 20 32 180 135 150 140 175 135 T a b l e 2 Profit from the sale of harvested crop on the market in the relevant year Relative Individual years Cumulative increase/ Treatments profit [EUR] decrease 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 [%] B0N0 565 1,401 455 967 278 1,154 4,820 100 B10N0 805 1,432 410 790 242 1,239 4,918 102 B20N0 506 1,300 437 780 236 1,277 4,536 94 B0N1 580 879 552 934 308 1,478 4,731 100 B10N1 605 891 500 738 221 1,358 4,313 91 B20N1 567 928 602 1,080 277 1,381 4,835 102 B0N2 713 878 593 1,131 343 1,014 4,672 100 B10N2 842 1,013 588 900 284 1,284 4,911 105 B20N2 767 1,087 687 984 387 1,729 5,641 121 Note 1: The field experiment had the following annual crop rotation: spring barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), corn (Zea mays L.), spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), corn, spring barley and corn in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. Note 2: The field experiment was established with biochar application at different rates (B0, B10 and NB20 t/ha) in 2014 and different rates of N fertilisation (N0, N1 and N2 level of N fertilisation − 40 to 240 kg/kg N depending on the requirement of the cultivated crop) applied every year according to crop requirements. 172 Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), 66, 2020 (4): 171 − 176 ing to a generation of an income stream linked to and experience based on the economic assessment carbon credit payments and this fact can affect the of the biochar application and its agronomic effect economic viability of biochar in the near future. expressed by generated crop yields. Currently, in- Economic profit plays one of the most impor - formation on the economics of biochar application tant roles in relation to decision making and the and its agronomic effects is missing. Moreover, we potential of biochar application by farmers in their present an evaluation of the continuous field exper - current situation. This driver is similar anywhere iment for a period of 6 years. To date, as the knowl- in the world for everyday agronomic practice and edge is based on short-term findings, it is forecasted for farmers themselves. In other words, the proba- that the return of investments in biochar through bility of choosing biochar as a soil amendment will crop yields is a matter of many years. Our results most likely depend on the answer to the following come from a field experiment with biochar (locality question: Does the investment in purchase and bio- Dolná Malanta, Slovakia, on silt loam Haplic Luvi- char application pay off through the generated and sol – the most intensively used soil type in the Slo- subsequently sold crop yields? The farmer naturally vak Republic for agricultural purposes) established expects that if he/she invests capital in the fertiliser in 2014. The certified biochar used in this case or biochar or their combination, he/she will not only study was purchased from company Sonnenerde get the investments back but will also receive a rea- (Riedlingsdorf, Austria) in 2014. Biochar was made sonable profit from the yields sold on the market. from paper fibre sludge and grain husks (1:1 w/w) From this point of view, efficiency of investment (at by pyrolysis at 550°C for 30 minutes in a Pyreg re- considerably high current prices of some certified actor (Pyreg GmbH, Dörth, Germany) and its price biochar producers) that has a long-term return is was very high at that time (Table 1). The most sig- questionable. nificant and already published findings related to the effect of biochar application on soil properties and The Biochar Experiment in Slovakia from an crop yields from this experiment are summarized in Agronomical Point of View the review paper of Horák et al. (2020b). Our find- In this context, we would like to draw the at- ings confirmed that biochar produced by the pyroly- tention of the scientific community to our results sis of organic waste (not containing any harmful T a b l e 3 Economic evaluation (in EUR) of crop yields in individual years after biochar application Treatments 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 B0N0 0 0 0 0 0 0 B10N0 −7,726 −7,695 −7,740 −7,917 −7,953 −7,868 B20N0 −15,991 −16,092 −16,110 −16,297 −16,339 −16,216 B0N1 0 0 0 0 0 0 B10N1 −7,941 −7,929 −7,981 −8,177 −8,264 −8,384 B20N1 −15,945 −15,896 −15,846 −15,700 −15,731 −15,828 B0N2 0 0 0 0 0 0 B10N2 −7,837 −7,702 −7,707 −7,938 −7,997 −7,727 B20N2 −15,878 −15,669 −15,575 −15,722 −15,678 −14,963 Note: See Table 2 173 Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), 66, 2020 (4): 171 −176 and hazardous substances) had positive effects on extremely high (producer from Austria, certified the soil properties and the reduction of greenhouse biochar), given the economic contribution to the gas emissions. The results on the crop yields during standard production of market crops (an increase of 2014 – 2018 were already published as well (Aydin crop yields in biochar treatments in comparison to et al. 2020; Horák et al. 2020a) and the yields for the control) under the field conditions. In general, eco- following years (from 2019 upwards) will be pub- nomic efficiency is largely affected by the amount lished in the near future. of applied biochar in optimal dosage. Low or too Data for the calculation of the biochar applica- high biochar rates are not justified as they did not tion economy is shown in Table 1 (cost of biochar, result insignificant effects on the soil properties cost of biochar application, and prices for commod- and crop yields as reported by Chan et al. (2007). ities in the respective year). Currently, there are also In our case, we applied doses of 10 and 20 t/ha in biochars available at lower prices and the develop- order to investigate the changes in soil properties as ment in a biochar price reduction is making a rapid well as crop yields (Horák et al. 2020b; Horák et progress. Profit margin varied (Table 2) and de- al. 2020a), and we found that the higher application pended on the amount of crop yield and the cost of rate significantly increased input costs (Table 1) and management practices in the respective year. When significantly influenced the production loss (Table the income was cumulatively totalled for individual 3). From the agronomic point of view, it is clear, treatments for the whole reporting period, the high- that at such high input costs, soil additives such as est overall profit was observed in treatments with biochar will not be attractive in standard cultivation higher biochar and N-fertilisation rates (Table 2). practices used by farmers. Investments in biochar, When the income generated by the crop during each which could provide an increase in production, may year was deducted from the initial amount, in case be profitable for farmers engaged in special crop of biochar’s rather high costs (biochar purchase and production (There is a greater likelihood of increas- application costs at the beginning of the experiment ing their production through soil management such in 2014), we noticed a high cumulative money loss as, the management of soil moisture and tempera- for the reporting period. It is evident that both the ture). Special crop production has higher realisation application of biochar and its application in combi- costs of the crop yields and if higher production is nation with N-fertilisation in the field conditions at achieved because of added biochar, the return of ini- current operational prices of commodities in indi- tial biochar investments could be eliminated in vidual years and high input costs were unprofitable. a shorter period – if we only look at it through the We would like to emphasize that in this case, only perspective of an ordinary farmer. the economic point of view of standard agronomic Of course, in our case, as well as in standard practice was considered. However, biochar applica- agronomic practice, the economic effect of biochar tion may be appealing to farmers in the long-term, should also be assessed through the economic value especially if the other benefits (improvement of soil of the improved soil properties (Verheijen et al. properties, mitigation of climate change, reduction, 2009). In other words, it should be considered to and usability of bio-waste etc.) will be accounted for. what extent the economic value (money) of the soil As stated by El-Naggar et al. (2019) investment in increases with improved soil properties. For exam- biochar application into the soil is a long-term issue ple, when C content, nutrient content has increased, that may discourage farmers from using it. However, soil physics and sorption have improved, because its beneficial effects on the soil continue from sev- of biochar application into the soil. Of course, there eral years up to decades, which might be appealing are also other matters to consider. For example, (and for farmers in the next period when compared to perhaps the most important issue in the case of the the application cost only (for example, compost or Slovak Republic), a substantial part of the agricul- N-fertiliser is applied several times over the same tural land fund is rented to farmers by owners of the time period). soil, and land lease contracts are signed mostly for In our case, the price of 1 tonne of biochar was 10-year periods. Since the soil is not their property, 174 Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), 66, 2020 (4): 171 − 176 farmers are not necessarily interested in investing REFERENCES a considerable amount of money for biochar in the AYDIN, E. – ŠIMANSKÝ, V. – HORÁK, J. – IGAZ, D. 2020. soil unless they are convinced that such investments Potential of biochar to alternate soil properties and crop yields 3 and 4 years after the application. In Agronomy, vol. will be returned in a short time period through high- 10, pp. 889. DOI: 10.3390/agronomy10060889. er crop yields which can then be sold on the market. BARROW, C.J. 2012. Biochar: Potential for countering land degradation and for improving agriculture. In Applied If farmers could work (or were working) on their Geography, vol. 34, pp. 21 – 28. DOI: 10.1016/j.apge- own soil, they would probably be less resistant to og.2011.09.008. higher investments in the soil where the investments EL-NAGGAR, A. – LEE, S.S. – RINKELEBE, J. – FAROOq, m. – song, H. – sarmaH, a.k. – zimmErman, a.r. are generally returned after a longer period of time. – AHMAD, M. – SHAHEEN, S.M. – OK, Y.S. 2019. Bio- char application to low fertility soils: A review of current status, and future prospects. In Geoderma, vol. 337, pp. 536 – 554. DOI: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2018.09.034. CONCLUSIONS HAN, L. – SUN, K. – YANG, Y. – XIA, X. – LI, F. – YANG, Z. – XING, B. 2020. Biochar´s stability and effect on the content, composition and turnover of soil organic carbon. As short-term biochar application is currently re- In Geoderma, vol. 364, 114 − 184. DOI: 10.1016/j.geoder- ma.2020.114184. sulting in net loss, the focus should be on: Horák, J. – Šimanský, V. – a ydin, E. 2020a. Benefits of Economically efficient and profitable production biochar and its combination with nitrogen fertilization for of biochar, which would significantly reduce its fi- soil quality and grain yields of barley, wheat and corn. In Journal of Elementology, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 443 – 458. DOI: nal sale price resulting in lower biochar purchase 10.5601/jelem.2019.24.3.1887. costs. It is expected that such a reduction in the cost Horák, J. – Šimanský, V. – igaz, d. – Juriga, m. – AYDIN, E. – LUKAC, M. 2020b. Biochar: An important of biochar might make it an appealing product for component ameliorating the productivity of intensively farmers. used soils – review. In Polish Journal of Environmental Studies, vol. 29, no. 5, pp. 2995 – 3001. 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Effect of Ireland) for improving the English text and also the biochar on N O emission, crop yield and properties of Stagnic Luvisol in a field experiment. In Zemdirbyste- editor and the reviewers for constructive comments. Agriculture, vol. 106, no. 4, pp. 297 – 306. DOI: 10.13080/ This publication is the result of the project z-a.2019.106.038. implementation: “Scientific support of climate SHACKLEY, S. – RUYSSCHAERT, G. – ZWART, K. – GLA- SER, B. 2016. Biochar in European Soils and Agriculture, change adaptation in agriculture and mitigation Science and Practice, 1st ed., London, New York: Rout- of soil degradation” (ITMS2014+ 313011W580) ledge, pp. 301. ŠIMANSKÝ, V. – HORÁK, J. – POLLÁKOVÁ, N. – JURIGA, supported by the Integrated Infrastructure M. – JONCZAK, J. 2019. Will the macro and micronutrient Operational Programme funded by the ERDF. content in biochar show in the higher content of the individ- ual parts of corn? In Journal of Elementology, vol. 24, no. 2, 175 Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), 66, 2020 (4): 171 −176 pp. 525–537. DOI: 10.5601/jelem.2018.23.2.1671. soils: Towards the required level of scientific understanding. TAMMEORG, P. – BASTOS, A.C. – JEFFERY, S. – REES, In Journal of Environmental Engineering and Landscape F. – KERN, J. – GRABER, E.R. – VENTURA, M. Management, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 192 – 207. DOI: – KIBBLEWHITE, M. – AMARO, A. – BUDAI, A. 10.3846/16486897.2016.1239582. – CORDOVIL, C.M.D.S. – DOMENE, X. – GARDI, VERHEIJEN, F.G.A. – JEFFERY, S. – BASTOS, A.C. – VAN C. – GASCó, G. – HORÁK, J. – KAMMANN, C. – DER VELDE, M. – DIAFAS, I. 2009. Biochar Application kondrloVá, E. – laird, d. – lourEiro, s. – to Soils – A Critical Scientific Review of Effects on Soil MARTINS, M.A.S. – PANZACCHI, P. – PRASAD, M. Properties, Processes and Functions, 1st ed., Luxembourg: – PRODANA, M. – PUGA, A.P. – RUYSSCHAERT, Office for the Official Publications of the European G. – SAS-PASZT, L. – SILVA, F.C. – TEIXEIRA, W.G. Communities, pp. 149. DOI: 10.2788/472. – TONON, G. – VEDOVE, G.D. – ZAVALLONI, C. – Received: September 10, 2020 GLASER, B. – VERHEIJEN, F.G.A. 2017. Biochars in Accepted: December 14, 2020 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Agriculture de Gruyter

Potential Application of Biochar Depends Mainly on Its Profits for Farmers: Case Study in Slovakia

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Abstract

Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), 66, 2020 (4): 171 − 176 Short communication DOI: 10.2478/agri-2020-0016 POTENTIAL APPLICATION OF BIOCHAR DEPENDS MAINLY ON ITS PROFITS FOR FARMERS: CASE STuDY IN SLOv AkIA Vladimír Šimanský*, ElE na a ydin, duŠan igaz, Ján Horák Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra, Slovak Republic ŠIMANSKÝ, V. – AYDIN, E. − IGAZ, D. − HORÁK, J.: Potential application of biochar depends mainly on its profits for farmers: case study in Slovakia. Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), vol. 66, no. 4, pp. 171 – 176. Current biochar application in the global agronomic practice focuses firstly on economic profits. In this paper, we would like to draw attention to our results and experience from the economic assessment of the agronomic effect of applied biochar through the generated crop yields. The results come from a field experiment (locality Dolná Malanta, Slovakia, silt loam Haplic Luvisol – the most intensively used soil in the Slovak Republic for agricultural purposes), where a biochar experiment was established in 2014. Based on our data, it is evident that both the application of biochar and its application in combination with N-fertilisation in field conditions at current realization prices of commodities in individual years and high input costs are still unprofitable. However, we emphasize that from an economic point of view of the standard agronomic practice. Key words: farmers; biochar; economic profit Biochar is the solid product of pyrolysis – ther- et al. 2020; Horák et al. 2020b) and significant book mal degradation of organic material in the absence publications sharing the observations of European of air – and one of the three products (bio-oil, syn- (Shackley et al. 2016), but also world (Verheijen gas, biochar). Biochar is the name given to charcoal et al. 2009; Lehmann et al. 2015; Rakshit et al. 2019) products intended for use in the agronomic and en- biochar experiments have been written. The individ- vironmental applications. There has been a huge ual studies mainly focused on the effects of biochar interest “boom” in the scientific community in the or its combination with other fertilisers (organic, last ten years related to biochar application. Inspira- mineral) on soil properties, including soil chemistry, tion was taken from past soil management and bio- physical state and soil biological properties, seques- char has been studied under controlled laboratory tration of C in the soil as a significant mitigation and field conditions. A number of scientific reviews concen- mechanism eliminating the increase of CO (Jeffery et al. 2011; Barrow 2012; Lone et al. 2015; tration in the atmosphere. The impact of biochar on Tammeorg et al. 2017; El-Naggar et al. 2019; Han crop yields is central to its application in agriculture. doc. Ing. Vladimír Šimanský, PhD. (* Corresponding author), Department of Soil Science, FAFR – SUA Nitra, 949 76 Nitra, Tr. A. Hlinku 2, Slovak Republic. E-mail: Vladimir.Simansky@uniag.sk Ing. Elena Aydın, PhD., Department of Biometeorology and Hydrology, HLEF – SUA Nitra, 949 76 Nitra, Hospodárska 7, Slovak Republic. E-mail: elena.aydin@uniag.sk doc. Ing. Ján Horák, PhD., Department of Biometeorology and Hydrology, HLEF – SUA Nitra, 949 76 Nitra, Hospodárska 7, Slovak Republic. E-mail: jan.horak@uniag.sk prof. Ing. Dušan Igaz, PhD., Department of Biometeorology and Hydrology, HLEF – SUA Nitra, 949 76 Nitra, Hospodárska 7, Slovak Republic. E-mail: dusan.igaz@uniag.sk © 2020 Authors. This is an open access article licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonComercial-NoDerivs License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/). 171 Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), 66, 2020 (4): 171 − 176 The conclusions of many studies identified positive this area that need to be addressed, biochar has been as well as negative aspects of biochar application. identified by many scientific teams as a potential However, the positive effect, especially on the soil agronomic tool for sustainable land management properties, was dominant. In most cases, a positive (El-Naggar et al. 2019; Horák et al. 2020b; Rak- environmental effect on greenhouse gas emissions shit et al. 2019; Rizhiya et al. 2019; Šimanský et reduction from soil to atmosphere was observed as al. 2019). In addition to the positive effects on the well. Considering the information available so far, soil environment, its potential to solve ecology and it is evident that the results differ depending on the waste management issues with the elimination of soil-climatic conditions, but also on the properties negative environmental impacts was also identified. of the applied biochar or its combination with other The interest in biochar application is largely driven fertilisers. Even though there are knowledge gaps in by its use as a climate change mitigation agent; lead- T a b l e 1 Data for calculation of economy costs in the relevant year Costs of Application rates Costs of biochar 1 ton of Commodity prices per 1 ton of biochar application in the field biochar [Eur] [t/ha] [Eur] [Eur] 10 16 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 20 32 180 135 150 140 175 135 T a b l e 2 Profit from the sale of harvested crop on the market in the relevant year Relative Individual years Cumulative increase/ Treatments profit [EUR] decrease 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 [%] B0N0 565 1,401 455 967 278 1,154 4,820 100 B10N0 805 1,432 410 790 242 1,239 4,918 102 B20N0 506 1,300 437 780 236 1,277 4,536 94 B0N1 580 879 552 934 308 1,478 4,731 100 B10N1 605 891 500 738 221 1,358 4,313 91 B20N1 567 928 602 1,080 277 1,381 4,835 102 B0N2 713 878 593 1,131 343 1,014 4,672 100 B10N2 842 1,013 588 900 284 1,284 4,911 105 B20N2 767 1,087 687 984 387 1,729 5,641 121 Note 1: The field experiment had the following annual crop rotation: spring barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), corn (Zea mays L.), spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), corn, spring barley and corn in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, respectively. Note 2: The field experiment was established with biochar application at different rates (B0, B10 and NB20 t/ha) in 2014 and different rates of N fertilisation (N0, N1 and N2 level of N fertilisation − 40 to 240 kg/kg N depending on the requirement of the cultivated crop) applied every year according to crop requirements. 172 Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), 66, 2020 (4): 171 − 176 ing to a generation of an income stream linked to and experience based on the economic assessment carbon credit payments and this fact can affect the of the biochar application and its agronomic effect economic viability of biochar in the near future. expressed by generated crop yields. Currently, in- Economic profit plays one of the most impor - formation on the economics of biochar application tant roles in relation to decision making and the and its agronomic effects is missing. Moreover, we potential of biochar application by farmers in their present an evaluation of the continuous field exper - current situation. This driver is similar anywhere iment for a period of 6 years. To date, as the knowl- in the world for everyday agronomic practice and edge is based on short-term findings, it is forecasted for farmers themselves. In other words, the proba- that the return of investments in biochar through bility of choosing biochar as a soil amendment will crop yields is a matter of many years. Our results most likely depend on the answer to the following come from a field experiment with biochar (locality question: Does the investment in purchase and bio- Dolná Malanta, Slovakia, on silt loam Haplic Luvi- char application pay off through the generated and sol – the most intensively used soil type in the Slo- subsequently sold crop yields? The farmer naturally vak Republic for agricultural purposes) established expects that if he/she invests capital in the fertiliser in 2014. The certified biochar used in this case or biochar or their combination, he/she will not only study was purchased from company Sonnenerde get the investments back but will also receive a rea- (Riedlingsdorf, Austria) in 2014. Biochar was made sonable profit from the yields sold on the market. from paper fibre sludge and grain husks (1:1 w/w) From this point of view, efficiency of investment (at by pyrolysis at 550°C for 30 minutes in a Pyreg re- considerably high current prices of some certified actor (Pyreg GmbH, Dörth, Germany) and its price biochar producers) that has a long-term return is was very high at that time (Table 1). The most sig- questionable. nificant and already published findings related to the effect of biochar application on soil properties and The Biochar Experiment in Slovakia from an crop yields from this experiment are summarized in Agronomical Point of View the review paper of Horák et al. (2020b). Our find- In this context, we would like to draw the at- ings confirmed that biochar produced by the pyroly- tention of the scientific community to our results sis of organic waste (not containing any harmful T a b l e 3 Economic evaluation (in EUR) of crop yields in individual years after biochar application Treatments 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 B0N0 0 0 0 0 0 0 B10N0 −7,726 −7,695 −7,740 −7,917 −7,953 −7,868 B20N0 −15,991 −16,092 −16,110 −16,297 −16,339 −16,216 B0N1 0 0 0 0 0 0 B10N1 −7,941 −7,929 −7,981 −8,177 −8,264 −8,384 B20N1 −15,945 −15,896 −15,846 −15,700 −15,731 −15,828 B0N2 0 0 0 0 0 0 B10N2 −7,837 −7,702 −7,707 −7,938 −7,997 −7,727 B20N2 −15,878 −15,669 −15,575 −15,722 −15,678 −14,963 Note: See Table 2 173 Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), 66, 2020 (4): 171 −176 and hazardous substances) had positive effects on extremely high (producer from Austria, certified the soil properties and the reduction of greenhouse biochar), given the economic contribution to the gas emissions. The results on the crop yields during standard production of market crops (an increase of 2014 – 2018 were already published as well (Aydin crop yields in biochar treatments in comparison to et al. 2020; Horák et al. 2020a) and the yields for the control) under the field conditions. In general, eco- following years (from 2019 upwards) will be pub- nomic efficiency is largely affected by the amount lished in the near future. of applied biochar in optimal dosage. Low or too Data for the calculation of the biochar applica- high biochar rates are not justified as they did not tion economy is shown in Table 1 (cost of biochar, result insignificant effects on the soil properties cost of biochar application, and prices for commod- and crop yields as reported by Chan et al. (2007). ities in the respective year). Currently, there are also In our case, we applied doses of 10 and 20 t/ha in biochars available at lower prices and the develop- order to investigate the changes in soil properties as ment in a biochar price reduction is making a rapid well as crop yields (Horák et al. 2020b; Horák et progress. Profit margin varied (Table 2) and de- al. 2020a), and we found that the higher application pended on the amount of crop yield and the cost of rate significantly increased input costs (Table 1) and management practices in the respective year. When significantly influenced the production loss (Table the income was cumulatively totalled for individual 3). From the agronomic point of view, it is clear, treatments for the whole reporting period, the high- that at such high input costs, soil additives such as est overall profit was observed in treatments with biochar will not be attractive in standard cultivation higher biochar and N-fertilisation rates (Table 2). practices used by farmers. Investments in biochar, When the income generated by the crop during each which could provide an increase in production, may year was deducted from the initial amount, in case be profitable for farmers engaged in special crop of biochar’s rather high costs (biochar purchase and production (There is a greater likelihood of increas- application costs at the beginning of the experiment ing their production through soil management such in 2014), we noticed a high cumulative money loss as, the management of soil moisture and tempera- for the reporting period. It is evident that both the ture). Special crop production has higher realisation application of biochar and its application in combi- costs of the crop yields and if higher production is nation with N-fertilisation in the field conditions at achieved because of added biochar, the return of ini- current operational prices of commodities in indi- tial biochar investments could be eliminated in vidual years and high input costs were unprofitable. a shorter period – if we only look at it through the We would like to emphasize that in this case, only perspective of an ordinary farmer. the economic point of view of standard agronomic Of course, in our case, as well as in standard practice was considered. However, biochar applica- agronomic practice, the economic effect of biochar tion may be appealing to farmers in the long-term, should also be assessed through the economic value especially if the other benefits (improvement of soil of the improved soil properties (Verheijen et al. properties, mitigation of climate change, reduction, 2009). In other words, it should be considered to and usability of bio-waste etc.) will be accounted for. what extent the economic value (money) of the soil As stated by El-Naggar et al. (2019) investment in increases with improved soil properties. For exam- biochar application into the soil is a long-term issue ple, when C content, nutrient content has increased, that may discourage farmers from using it. However, soil physics and sorption have improved, because its beneficial effects on the soil continue from sev- of biochar application into the soil. Of course, there eral years up to decades, which might be appealing are also other matters to consider. For example, (and for farmers in the next period when compared to perhaps the most important issue in the case of the the application cost only (for example, compost or Slovak Republic), a substantial part of the agricul- N-fertiliser is applied several times over the same tural land fund is rented to farmers by owners of the time period). soil, and land lease contracts are signed mostly for In our case, the price of 1 tonne of biochar was 10-year periods. Since the soil is not their property, 174 Agriculture (Poľnohospodárstvo), 66, 2020 (4): 171 − 176 farmers are not necessarily interested in investing REFERENCES a considerable amount of money for biochar in the AYDIN, E. – ŠIMANSKÝ, V. – HORÁK, J. – IGAZ, D. 2020. soil unless they are convinced that such investments Potential of biochar to alternate soil properties and crop yields 3 and 4 years after the application. In Agronomy, vol. will be returned in a short time period through high- 10, pp. 889. 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Journal

Agriculturede Gruyter

Published: Dec 1, 2020

Keywords: farmers; biochar; economic profit

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