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Induction of Systemic Resistance in Plants by Biochar, a Soil-Applied Carbon Sequestering Agent

September 2010 , Volume 100 , Number  9
Pages  913 - 921

Yigal Elad, Dalia Rav David, Yael Meller Harel, Menahem Borenshtein, Hananel Ben Kalifa, Avner Silber, and Ellen R. Graber

First, second, third, fourth, and fifth authors: Department of Plant Pathology and Weed Research, Institute of Plant Protection, The Volcani Center, Agricultural Research Organization, and sixth and seventh authors: Department of Soil Chemistry, Plant Nutrition and Microbiology, Institute of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences, The Volcani Center, Agricultural Research Organization, Bet Dagan 50250, Israel.

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Accepted for publication 12 May 2010.

Biochar is the solid coproduct of biomass pyrolysis, a technique used for carbon-negative production of second-generation biofuels. The biochar can be applied as a soil amendment, where it permanently sequesters carbon from the atmosphere as well as improves soil tilth, nutrient retention, and crop productivity. In addition to its other benefits in soil, we found that soil-applied biochar induces systemic resistance to the foliar fungal pathogens Botrytis cinerea (gray mold) and Leveillula taurica (powdery mildew) on pepper and tomato and to the broad mite pest (Polyphagotarsonemus latus Banks) on pepper. Levels of 1 to 5% biochar in a soil and a coconut fiber-tuff potting medium were found to be significantly effective at suppressing both diseases in leaves of different ages. In long-term tests (105 days), pepper powdery mildew was significantly less severe in the biochar-treated plants than in the plants from the unamended controls although, during the final 25 days, the rate of disease development in the treatments and controls was similar. Possible biochar-related elicitors of systemic induced resistance are discussed.

Additional keywords: induced systemic resistance, systemic acquired resistance.

© 2010 The American Phytopathological Society