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Material derived from hydrothermal carbonization: Effects on plant growth and arbuscular mycorrhiza

Rillig, Matthias C., Wagner, Marcel, Salem, Mohamed, Antunes, Pedro M., George, Carmen, Ramke, Hans-Günter, Titirici, Maria-Magdalena, Antonietti, Markus
Applied soil ecology 2010 v.45 no.3 pp. 238-242
greenhouse gases, pollution control, Trifolium repens, Beta vulgaris, beets, Taraxacum, roots, symbiosis, vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae, mycorrhizal fungi, plant growth, soil fungi, Glomus intraradices, nodulation, spore germination, soil pH, soil amendments, application rate
Greenhouse gas mitigation options include the production of carbonized materials and their addition to soils for longer term storage. Hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) is a novel way to produce carbonized materials. The goal here was to test if HTC material, in our case derived from beet root chips, has adverse effects on plant growth or that of root associated symbionts such as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. We carried out several studies, and found that increasing concentrations of HTC material could be deleterious for plant growth of Taraxacum, starting at 10vol% additions. Conversely, root colonization of the fungal symbiont was stimulated at an addition of 20vol%. Soil pH changes occurring during the study could be traced to microbial reduction reactions, and these led to a pH increase of the medium despite the quite acidic nature of the HTC material itself. In separate assays, we showed that spore germination of the AM fungus Glomus intraradices was stimulated by the HTC material, suggesting that direct effects on the fungi are likely in addition to those mediated by the host plant. A third experiment with a different plant species (Trifolium repens) confirmed the major conclusions, and showed also neutral to stimulatory effect on nodulation. Our results suggest that HTC materials should be carefully tested and optimized to reduce negative effects on plant growth before applications in the field are undertaken, particularly at high addition rates.