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Bass A.M.,James Cook University | Bird M.I.,James Cook University | Kay G.,Terrain Natural Resource Management | Muirhead B.,Gulf
Science of the Total Environment | Year: 2016

The addition of organic amendments to agricultural soils has the potential to increase crop yields, reduce dependence on inorganic fertilizers and improve soil condition and resilience. We evaluated the effect of biochar (B), compost (C) and co-composted biochar (COMBI) on the soil properties, crop yield and greenhouse gas emissions from a banana and a papaya plantation in tropical Australia in the first harvest cycle. Biochar, compost and COMBI organic amendments improved soil properties, including significant increases in soil water content, CEC, K, Ca, NO3, NH4 and soil carbon content. However, increases in soil nutrient content and improvements in physical properties did not translate to improved fruit yield. Counter to our expectations, banana crop yield (weight per bunch) was reduced by 18%, 12% and 24% by B, C and COMBI additions respectively, and no significant effect was observed on the papaya crop yield. Soil efflux of CO2 was elevated by addition of C and COMBI amendments, likely due to an increase in labile carbon for microbial processing. Our data indicate a reduction in N2O flux in treatments containing biochar. The application of B, C and COMBI amendments had a generally positive effect on soil properties, but this did not translate into a crop productivity increase in this study. The benefits to soil nutrient content, soil carbon storage and N2O emission reduction need to be carefully weighed against potentially deleterious effects on crop yield, at least in the short-term. © 2016 Elsevier B.V. Source

Wurster C.M.,James Cook University | Robertson J.,James Cook University | Westcott D.A.,CSIRO | Dryden B.,Terrain Natural Resource Management | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Feral pigs (Sus scrofa) are an invasive species that disrupt ecosystem functioning throughout their introduced range. In tropical environments, feral pigs are associated with predation and displacement of endangered species, modification of habitat, and act as a vector for the spread of exotic vegetation and disease. Across many parts of their introduced range, the diet of feral pigs is poorly known. Although the remote location and difficult terrain of far north Queensland makes observing feral pig behavior difficult, feral pigs are perceived to seek refuge in World Heritage tropical rainforests and seasonally 'crop raid' into lowland sugarcane crops. Thus, identifying how feral pigs are using different components of the landscape is important to the design of management strategies. We used the stable isotope composition of captured feral pigs to determine the extent of rainforest and sugarcane habitat usage. Recently grown hair (basal hair) from feral pigs captured in remote rainforest indicated pigs met their dietary needs solely within this habitat. Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values of basal hair from feral pigs captured near sugarcane plantations were more variable, with some individuals estimated to consume over 85% of their diet within a sugarcane habitat, while a few consumed as much as 90% of their diet from adjacent forested environments. We estimated whether feral pigs switch habitats by sequentially sampling δ13C and δ15N values of long tail hair from a subset of seven captured animals, and demonstrate that four of these individuals moved between habitats. Our results indicate that feral pigs utilize both sugarcane and forest habitats, and can switch between these resources. © 2012 Wurster et al. Source

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