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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Improving Nutrient Utilization in Western Irrigated Crop Production Systems

Location: Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research

Title: Biochar effects on soil microbial communities and resistance of enzymes to stress

Authors
item Elzobair, Khalid -
item Stromberger, Mary -
item Ippolito, James

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: April 26, 2013
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Biochar, a product of the pyrolysis of organic material, has received wide attention as a means to improve soil fertility and crop productivity, absorb pollutants in soil, and sequester carbon to mitigate climate change. Little information exists on the short- and longer-term effects of biochar on soil microbial communities and enzyme activities, relative to other organic amendments such as manure. In this field study, a fast pyrolysis biochar (CQuest) derived from oak and hickory hardwood was applied to replicate field plots in fall 2008, at a rate of 22.4 Mg/ha dry wt. Other plots received dairy manure (42 Mg/ha dry wt), a combination of biochar and manure, or no amendment (control). Plots were annually cropped to maize. Surface soils (0-10 cm) were sampled directly under maize plants in late June 2009 and early August 2012, one and four years after treatment application, and assayed for microbial community fatty acid profiles and extracellular enzyme activities. In addition, arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal colonization was assayed in corn roots in 2012. At the rate applied, biochar had no or only slight effects on microbial communities, enzyme activities and AM root colonization relative to manure. Biochar slightly altered microbial community structure in 2009 but not 2012 and had variable effects on six different enzymes. AM fungal colonization was slightly (but not significantly) increased with biochar amendment. A laboratory incubation study is underway to determine if higher rates of biochar will stabilize soil enzymes and increase enzyme resistance to heat stress.

Last Modified: 9/2/2014
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