We conducted a pot experiment using a wheat-millet rotation to examine the effects of two successive rice-straw biochar applications on crop growth and soil properties in acidic oxisols and alkaline cambosols from China. Biochar was incorporated into soil at rates of 0, 2.25 or 22.5 Mg/ha at the beginning of each crop season with identical applications of NPK fertilizer. In the oxisols, the largest biochar treatment enhanced soil pH and cation exchange capacity, decreased soil bulk density, improved soil P, K, Ca and Mg availability and enhanced their uptake, and increased wheat and millet yields by 157 and 150% for wheat grain and straw, respectively, and 72.6% for millet straw. In the cambosols, biochar treatment decreased soil bulk density, improved P and K availability, increased N, P and K uptake by crops and increased wheat and millet straw yields by 19.6 and 60.6%, respectively. Total soil organic carbon increased in response to successive biochar applications over the rotation. No difference in water-soluble organic carbon was recorded between biochar-treated and control soils. Converting straw to biochar and treating soils with successive applications may be a viable option for improving soil quality, sequestering carbon and utilizing straw resources in China.