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Ethylene: potential key for biochar amendment impacts
- Spokas, Kurt A., Baker, John M., Reicosky, Donald C.
- Plant and soil 2010 v.333 no.1-2 pp. 443
- soil microorganisms, biological activity in soil, gas emissions, ethylene, ethylene production, soil amendments, charcoal, biochar
- Significant increases in root density, crop growth and productivity have been observed following soil additions of biochar, which is a solid product from the pyrolysis of biomass. In addition, alterations in the soil microbial dynamics have been observed following biochar amendments, with decreased carbon dioxide (CO₂) respiration, suppression of methane (CH₄) oxidation and reduction of nitrous oxide (N₂O) production. However, there has not been a full elucidation of the mechanisms behind these effects. Here we show data on ethylene production that was observed from biochar and biochar-amended soil. Ethylene is an important plant hormone as well as an inhibitor for soil microbial processes. Our current hypothesis is that the ethylene is biochar derived, with a majority of biochars exhibiting ethylene production even without soil or microbial inoculums. There was increased ethylene production from non-sterile compared to sterile soil (215%), indicating a role of soil microbes in the observed ethylene production. Production varied with different biomass sources and production conditions. These observations provide a tantalizing insight into a potential mechanism behind the biochar effects observed, particularly in light of the important role ethylene plays in plant and microbial processes.