Yield response to low rates of poultry litter biochar with traditional fertilisers in a wheat crop

Wheat Plots - poultry litter biochar with traditional fertilisers in a wheat crop


The second  trial in 2016 was based on research carried out by the South Australian No Till Farmers Association (SANTFA) who ran similar trial over 5 years. The evidence showed that blending biochar with traditional fertilisers and deep banding it under the seed, there is an increase in fertiliser efficiency and improved gross margins.


This trial continued the work carried out by Energy Farmers in the NACC funded project titled, “Response and availability of potassium in wheat crops to applications of biochar” in 2015. This trial examined the potential of turning wheat straw, high in potassium in to a potassium rich carbon based fertiliser and using it as a supplement for potash, with the aim of reducing potash applications.

Unfortunately, the first trial did not show any significant response to biochar applications. Seasonal conditions and low rainfall were largely to blame. It seemed the nutrient levels in the soil were enough to sustain a crop of this magnitude in a low rainfall season.

The plan was to continue the trial on the same site however, a farm worker accidentally ploughed up the site before we had seeded it. Therefore the site was changed. We also decided to change the scope of the trial to include new treatments, this was mainly due to new information gained.


In line with the first year (2015) results, there was no significant difference between any of the treatments. Again, there were enough nutrients in the soil to maintain a crop of this level.

A major outcome of this trial was that using biochar at low rates may not improve crop productivity in the shorter term. It may take 3 or 4 years to see the benefits and we need to take a longer term approach when trialing biochar.

As SANTFA showed, there are financial benefits for using low rates of biochar with fertiliser in a cropping scenario. There are also carbon farming opportunities using biochar based fertilisers.

Unfortunately, we were unable to secure funding to continue these trials but we are still very keen to be involved in any biochar based research. Please contact us if you have an idea or want to talk about biochar based fertilisers.

picture showing treatment protocol and results of poultry litter biochar response in a wheat crop

For full list of treatments and trial results please see our trial report.