Biochar Attracts Beneficial Soil Fungi in Farmlands

Greg Howard
18th May, 2024

Biochar Attracts Beneficial Soil Fungi in Farmlands

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study took place in Alberta, Canada, using quinoa as the host plant to explore the interaction between biochar and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF)
  • Biochar selectively attracted certain AMF, particularly Paraglomus, which dominated the biochar packets
  • The AMF community in biochar was a subset of the broader soil community, with 12 of 18 virtual taxa detected in soil also found in biochar
Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are vital for plant health, forming symbiotic relationships with plant roots and aiding in nutrient uptake. Recent research by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada[1] has shed light on the interaction between AMF and biochar, a carbon-rich material produced from biomass. This study is crucial for understanding how biochar can be used to improve soil health and agricultural productivity. Biochar is known to enhance soil properties such as carbon content, water retention, and bulk density, which can lead to increased crop yields and reduced environmental stress on plants. However, the processes governing AMF colonization of biochar have not been well understood. The study aimed to investigate how mycorrhizas explore soils containing biochar, especially when combined with nutrient additions like manure and fertilizers. In this greenhouse experiment, quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) was used as the host plant. Researchers buried packets of non-activated biochar in root exclusion mesh bags in different agricultural soils. They tested the impact of mineral nutrients and biochar addition on mycorrhizal colonization. Interestingly, Paraglomus, a type of AMF, appeared to dominate the biochar packets. The AMF community in the biochar was a subset of the broader soil community, with 12 of 18 virtual taxa detected in soil communities also found in the biochar. This finding is significant because it highlights the selective colonization of biochar by certain AMF, particularly Paraglomus. Previous studies have shown that Paraglomus spp. are more common in organically managed soils and less so in intensively managed ones[2]. This aligns with the current study's observation that Paraglomus selectively colonizes biochar, possibly due to its soil-exploratory traits. The study also noted differences in AMF community composition between soils with different properties. While nutrient addition did shift these communities, the changes were inconsistent across soil types and did not significantly alter the dominance of Paraglomus in biochar. This suggests that Paraglomus has a unique ability to colonize biochar regardless of nutrient conditions. Previous research has shown that biochar can increase microbial activity and alter microbial community structure in soils, though its effects can vary based on application rates and soil types[3]. In contrast to biochar, organic amendments like manure are often more practical for large-scale field applications due to their abundance and cost-effectiveness[3]. The current study adds to this understanding by demonstrating that biochar can selectively attract certain beneficial fungi, potentially offering a targeted approach to improving soil health. Another key aspect of biochar is its potential as a slow-release phosphorus (P) fertilizer. Phosphorus is a critical nutrient for plants, and biochar can significantly increase its availability in soils[4]. This is particularly important as phosphate rock resources are depleting, making sustainable alternatives like biochar essential for future agricultural practices. The selective colonization of biochar by Paraglomus may also reflect differences in AMF traits. Paraglomus has been identified primarily in soils rather than roots, suggesting it has strong soil-exploratory traits. Conversely, the absence of some AMF from the biochar implies they either have a reduced tendency to explore soils or can avoid nutrient sources that are more difficult to access. In conclusion, the study by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provides valuable insights into the selective colonization of biochar by AMF, particularly Paraglomus. This research underscores the potential of biochar to enhance soil health and agricultural productivity by selectively attracting beneficial fungi and improving nutrient availability. As biochar use becomes more widespread, understanding these interactions will be crucial for optimizing its benefits in different agricultural contexts.

AgriculturePlant ScienceMycology


Main Study

1) Biochar is colonized by select arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in agricultural soils

Published 17th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Distribution and diversity of Paraglomus spp. in tilled agricultural soils.

3) Contrasting effects of biochar versus manure on soil microbial communities and enzyme activities in an Aridisol.

4) Biochar effects on phosphorus availability in agricultural soils: A meta-analysis.

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