Field evaluation of a boron recycling fertiliser

Duboc O., Steiner K., Radosits F., Wenzel W.W., Goessler W., Tiefenbacher A., Strauss P., Eigner H., Horn D., Santner J. (2021): Field evaluation of a boron recycling fertiliser. Plant Soil Environ., 67: 110–119.


download PDF

Boron (B) is a plant nutrient and a limited mineral resource. Therefore, secondary B sources such as end-of-life cellulose fiber insulation (CFI) should be preferred for B fertiliser production over primary borates. In addition, crop B fertilisation is challenging because B is only weakly adsorbed in soils and prone to leaching in particular if the soil pH is below 7. The objectives of this study were to assess the effect of pyrolysed CFI (B-Biochar) on crop B uptake in the field and on B leaching in a lysimeter study. B-Biochar was pyrolysed at 600 °C and tested (1) in a field experiment with maize (Zea mays L.) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.), and (2) in a lab microlysimeter experiment to study B leaching under simulated rainfall. In the field experiment, B concentration in plant tissue increased by up to 100% with B-Biochar compared to the control (from 29.6 to 61.6 mg B/kg in young sunflower leaves) and was only slightly lower (–10% to –20%) than with water-soluble Na-tetraborate (Borax). This lower uptake was attributed to the slow-release properties of the B-Biochar. In the lysimeter experiment, 41% and 55% of added B through B-Biochar was leached below 16 cm depth when fertilised with 1 and 2 kg B/ha, respectively, but B concentration of the leachate remained below the 1 mg B/L threshold value for drinking water in the European Union. In conclusion, CFI has a strong potential as a secondary B source for fertiliser production, and pyrolysis appears to be a suitable process for that purpose. During the processing of CFI to fertiliser, more focus should be given to slow B release in the future in order to reduce losses by leaching.


Abat M., Degryse F., Baird R., McLaughlin M.J. (2014): Formulation, synthesis and characterization of boron phosphate (BPO4) compounds as raw materials to develop slow-release boron fertilisers. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, 177: 860–868.
Abat M., Degryse F., Baird R., McLaughlin M.J. (2015a): Boron phosphates (BPO4) as a seedling-safe boron fertiliser source. Plant and Soil, 391: 153–160.
Abat M., Degryse F., Baird R., McLaughlin M.J. (2015b): Responses of canola to the application of slow-release boron fertilisers and their residual effect. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 79: 97–103.
Amrhein V., Greenland S., McShane B. (2019): Retire statistical significance. Nature, 567: 305–307.
Asad A., Blamey F.P.C., Edwards D.G. (2002): Dry matter production and boron concentrations of vegetative and reproductive tissues of canola and sunflower plants grown in nutrient solution. Plant and Soil, 243: 243–252.
Bell R.W. (1997): Diagnosis and prediction of boron deficiency for plant production. Plant and Soil, 193: 149–168.
Bergmann W. (ed.) (1992): Colour Atlas Nutritional Disorders of Plants. Jena, Stuttgart, Gustav Fischer Verlag, 386. ISBN 3-334-60423-3
BIO by Deloitte (2015) Study on Data for a Raw Material System Analysis: Roadmap and Test of the Fully Operational MSA for Raw Materials. Prepared for the European Commission, DG GROW.
Blamey F.P.C., Mould D., Chapman J. (1979): Critical boron concentrations in plant tissues of two sunflower cultivars. Agronomy Journal, 71: 243–247.
BMLFUW (2017): Richtlinien für die Sachgerechte Düngung im Ackerbau und Grünland – Anleitung zur Interpretation von Bodenuntersuchungsergebnissen in der Landwirtschaft. 7. Auflage.
BMNT (2018): eHYD. Vienna, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism. Available at: (January 17, 2020).
Degryse F. (2017): Boron fertilisers: use, challenges and the benefit of slow-release sources – a review. Boron, 2: 111–122.
Duboc O., Steiner K., Radosits F., Wenzel W.W., Goessler W., Santner J. (2019): Functional recycling of biobased, borate-stabilized insulation materials as B fertilizer. Environmental Science and Technology, 53: 14620–14629.
EC (1998): Council Directive 98/83/EC of 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended for human consumption. Brussels, European Union.
European Commission (2014): Communication on the review of the list of critical raw materials for the EU and the implementation of the Raw Materials Initiative. COM(2014) 297.
European Commission (2017): Communication on the 2017 list of Critical Raw Materials for the EU. COM(2017) 490.
Henckens M.L.C.M., Driessen P.P.J., Worrell E. (2014): Metal scarcity and sustainability, analyzing the necessity to reduce the extraction of scarce metals. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 93: 1–8.
Hothorn T., Bretz F., Westfall P. (2008): Simultaneous inference in general parametric models. Biometrical Journal, 50: 346–363.
Huygens D., Saveyn H., Tonini D., Eder P., Delgano Sancho L. (2018): Pre-final STRUBIAS Report – DRAFT STRUBIAS recovery rules and market study for precipitated phosphate salts & derivates, thermal oxidation materials & derivates and pyrolysis & gasification materials in view of their possible inclusion as Component Material Categories in the Revised Fertiliser Regulation. Available from:
Kerschberger M., Krause O., Marks G., Zorn W. (2001): Standpunkt zum Mikronährstoff-Düngebedarf (B, Cu, Mn, Mo, Zn) in der Pflanzenproduktion. Jena, Thüringer Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft. Available at:,%20Cu,%20Mn,%20Mn,%20Mo,%20Zn)%20in%20der%20Pflanzenproduktion_2001.pdf (June 2, 2020)
Lenth R. (2019): emmeans: Estimated Marginal Means, aka Least-Squares Means. R package version 1.4.1.
R Core Team (2019): R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. Vienna, R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Available at:
Rashid A., Rafique E. (2005): Internal boron requirement of young sunflower plants: proposed diagnostic criteria. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 36: 2113–2119.
Sächsische Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft (2007): Umsetzung der Düngeverordnung – Hinweise und Richtwerte für die Praxis.
Schlesinger W.H., Vengosh A. (2016): Global boron cycle in the Anthropocene. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 30: 219–230.
Shorrocks V.M. (1997): The occurrence and correction of boron deficiency. Plant and Soil, 193: 121–148.
Sinclair A.H., Edwards A.C. (2008): Micronutrient deficiency problems in agricultural crops in Europe. In: Alloway B.J., Brian J. (eds.): Micronutrient Deficiencies in Global Crop Production. Dordrecht, Springer Netherlands, 225–244. ISBN 978-1-4020-6860-7
Tiefenbacher A., Weigelhofer G., Klik A., Pucher M., Santner J., Wenzel W., Eder A., Strauss P. (2020): Short-term effects of fertilization on dissolved organic matter (DOM) in soil leachate. Water, 12: 1617. doi:10.3390/w12061617
VDLUFA (2002): Bestimmung der durch Elektro-Ultrafiltration (EUF) lösbaren Anteile von Phosphor, Kalium, Calcium, Magnesium, Natrium, Schwefel und Bor. Methodenbuch I, A 6.4.2.
Wasserstein R.L., Schirm A.L., Lazar N.A. (2019): Moving to a World Beyond "p < 0.05." The American Statistician, 73: 1–19.
download PDF

© 2022 Czech Academy of Agricultural Sciences | Prohlášení o přístupnosti