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Biochar Reduces Copper Toxicity in Chenopodium quinoa Willd. in a Sandy Soil

TitleBiochar Reduces Copper Toxicity in Chenopodium quinoa Willd. in a Sandy Soil
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsBuss, Wolfram, Kammann Claudia, and Koyro Hans-Werner
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Pagination1157 - 1165

Mining, smelting, land applications of sewage sludge, the use of fungicides containing copper (Cu), and other human activities have led to widespread soil enrichment and contamination with Cu and potentially toxic conditions. Biochar (BC) can adsorb several substances, ranging from herbicides to plant-inhibiting allelochemicals. However, the range of potential beneficial effects on early-stage plant growth with regard to heavy metal toxicity is largely unexplored. We investigated the ameliorating properties of a forestry-residue BC under Cu toxicity conditions on early plant growth. Young quinoa plants (Chenopodium quinoa) were grown in the greenhouse in the presence of 0, 2, and 4% BC application (w/w) added to a sandy soil with 0, 50, or 200 µg g-1 Cu supplied. The plants without BC showed severe stress symptoms and reduced growth shortly after Cu application of 50 µg g-1 and died at 200 µg Cu g-1. Increasing BC concentrations in the growth medium significantly increased the plant performance without Cu toxicity or under Cu stress. At the 4% BC application rate, the plants with 200 µg g-1 Cu almost reached the same biomass as in the control treatment. In the presence of BC, less Cu entered the plant tissues, which had reduced Cu concentrations in the order roots, shoots, leaves. The amelioration effect also was reflected in the plant–soil system CO2 gas exchange, which showed clear signs of improvement with BC presence. The most likely ameliorating mechanisms were adsorption of Cu to negatively charged BC surfaces and an improvement of the water supply. Overall, BC seems to be a beneficial amendment with the potential to ameliorate Cu toxicity in sandy soils. Further research with a broad spectrum of different soil types, BCs, and crop plants is required.