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Microbial community shifts 2.6 years after top dressing of Miscanthus biochar, hydrochar and feedstock on a temperate grassland site

TitleMicrobial community shifts 2.6 years after top dressing of Miscanthus biochar, hydrochar and feedstock on a temperate grassland site
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsRex, David, Schimmelpfennig Sonja, Jansen-Willems Anne, Moser Gerald, Kammann Claudia, and Müller Christoph
JournalPlant and Soil
Background and aims
Within the last decades, considerable knowledge has been gained on the impacts of carbonaceous soil additives such as hydrochar (or HTC) and biochar (or pyrochar) on plant growth and various soil properties. However, still little is known about the effects of hydrochar and biochar on soil microorganisms, especially from field studies. Microorganisms are closely linked to nutrient dynamics in soil and therefore are tightly linked to soil fertility. As a consequence, possible changes in the microbial community structure due to HTC/biochar soil application may lead to considerable changes in soil nutrient dynamics.
To gain insights into HTC/biochar associated long-term effects on microorganisms, soil samples were taken from a grassland field study 2.6 years (31 months) after its initiation (April 2011), where Miscanthus × giganteus feedstock, HTC and biochar, each mixed with pig slurry had been applied as top-dressing in a randomized block design, next to a slurry-only control (n = 4, 16 plots). The samples were analyzed for microbial activity and biomass by substrate induced respiration (SIR). Bacterial and fungal fractions in soil microbial biomass (SMB) were determined using the inhibitors streptomycin and cycloheximide respectively.
Total SMB in biochar-amended soils was significantly higher compared to all other treatments; fungal biomass was significantly higher compared to feedstock and control treatments. The percentage of bacterial biomass was higher in the feedstock and HTC amended soil, as compared to the control. Additionally, HTC exhibited a significantly higher percentage of fungal biomass compared to the feedstock treatment, indicating a microbial community shift.
While the uncarbonized feedstock material depleted both total SMB and especially fungi, HTC and biochar did not trigger any adverse long-term effects on SMB. Rather, the observed biochar-induced stimulation of SMB may improve soil aggregation and increase the soil organic carbon content in the long term.
Short TitlePlant Soil