Biochar Implications Under Limited Irrigation for Sweet Corn Production in a Semi-Arid Environment

Manpreet Singh, Sukhbir Singh, Ved Parkash, Glen Ritchie, Russell W. Wallace, Sanjit K. Deb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The integration of biochar and deficit irrigation is increasingly being evaluated as a water-saving strategy to minimize crop yield losses under reduced irrigation in arid and semi-arid regions such as West Texas. A 2-year (2019 and 2020) open-field study evaluated the effect of two types of biochar amendments (hardwood and softwood) and three irrigation rates [100, 70, and 40% crop evapotranspiration (ETc) replacement] on the physiology, plant growth, and yield of sweet corn in semi-arid West Texas. All experimental units were replicated four times in a split-plot design. The chlorophyll content (ChlSPAD) in 40% ETc dropped significantly compared to 100% ETc and 70% ETc during the reproductive phase. Although water stress under 40% ETc decreased photosynthesis (Pn) to limit transpiration (E) by stomatal closure, it improved intrinsic water use efficiency (iWUE). The above-mentioned gas exchange parameters were comparable between 100% ETc and 70% ETc. Both biochar treatments increased ChlSPAD content over non-amended plots, however, their effect on gas exchange parameters was non-significant. All growth and yield-related parameters were comparable between 100% ETc and 70% ETc, but significantly greater than 40% ETc, except water productivity (WP). Both deficit irrigation treatments improved WP over full irrigation in 2019, but in 2020, the WP gains were observed only under 70% ETc. Hardwood biochar decreased soil bulk density and increased soil porosity, but it had a marginal effect on the water retention characteristics. These results suggest that 70% ETc can be used as an alternative to full irrigation to save water with a minimal yield penalty for sweet corn production in the West Texas region. The hardwood biochar application improved the vegetative biomass significantly but yield marginally during the first 2 years of application. A long-term study is required to test the effect of biochar under deficit irrigation beyond 2 years.

Original languageEnglish
Article number853746
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - Apr 22 2022


  • drought stress
  • photosynthesis
  • physiology
  • plant available water
  • semi-arid
  • water holding capacity
  • water productivity


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