Effects of biochar amendment on root traits and contaminant availability of maize plants in a copper and arsenic impacted soil

Brennan et al. (2014) Article Published in Plant and Soil

STSM recipient Aoife Brennan published an article in Plant and Soil based on the experiments carried out during her STSM. Her project was dedicated to the investigation of plant ecophysiological responses when using biochar amendments for the remediation of soils co-contaminated with inorganic elements and organic compounds.
Authors: Aoife Brennan, Eduardo Moreno Jiménez, Markus Puschenreiter, José Antonio Alburquerque, Christine Switzer

Abstract

Background and aims

Biochar has been proposed as a tool to enhance phytostabilisation of contaminated soils but little data are available to illustrate the direct effect on roots in contaminated soils. This work aimed to investigate specific root traits and to assess the effect of biochar amendment on contaminant availability.

Methods

Amendment with two different types of biochar, pine woodchip and olive tree pruning, was assessed in a rhizobox experiment with maize planted in a soil contaminated with significant levels of copper and arsenic.

Results

Amendment was found to significantly improve root traits compared to the control soil, particularly root mass density and root length density. Copper uptake to plants and ammonium sulphate extractable copper was significantly less in the biochar amended soils. Arsenic uptake and extractability varied with type of biochar used but was not considered to be the limiting factor affecting root and shoot development.

Conclusions

Root establishment in contaminated soils can be enhanced by biochar amendment but choice of biochar is key to maximising soil improvement and controlling contaminant availability.

Brennan et al. (2014): Effects of biochar amendment on root traits and contaminant availability of maize plants in a copper and arsenic impacted soil