David Houben, Philippe Sonnet, Jean-Thomas Cornelis (2013). “Biochar from Miscanthus: a potential silicon fertilizer.” Plant and Soil, online ahead of print. DOI: 10.1007/s11104-013-1885-8
Background and aims
Silicon (Si) is largely recognized to improve plant growth subjected to various biotic and abiotic stresses. As plants accumulate Si in the form of readily-soluble phytolith, we examine the possibility of using phytolith-rich biochar as a bio-available Si source for increasing the agronomical productivity of Si high-accumulator plants while augmenting soil fertility and C sequestration.
By adding three different biochars (Miscanthus x giganteus straws, coffee husks and woody material) at two different concentrations (1 % and 3 %; w/w) to soil samples, we investigated the effects on the soil respiration, the chemical characteristics and the kinetic release of bio-available Si (CaCl2-extractable Si).
Here we show that the biochar from Miscanthus straws was the most attractive amendment. Its incorporation at a 3 % rate improved the soil fertility parameters (pH and available cations) and combined the highest mean residence time of carbon (C) in soil (MRT = 50 years) with the highest rate of release of bio-available Si. We attribute this result to the presence of phytoliths in this biochar, as revealed by SEM-EDS analysis.
Not only did the biochar from Miscanthus enhance both soil C sequestration and fertility, but the results of this study suggest that it can also be considered as a potential source of bio-available Si. Although our conclusions should be substantiated in the field, we suggest that Miscanthus biochar could be used as a potential source of bio-available silicon for the culture of such crop as Si-accumulator plants growing, for instance, in highly weathered tropical soils with low content in carbon, nutrients and bio-available Si.