Impact of biochar application to soil on the root-associated bacterial community structure of fully developed greenhouse pepper plants

Max Kolton, Yael Meller Harel, Zohar Pasternak, Ellen R. Graber, Yigal Elad, Eddie Cytryn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

306 Scopus citations


Adding biochar to soil has environmental and agricultural potential due to its long-term carbon sequestration capacity and its ability to improve crop productivity. Recent studies have demonstrated that soil-applied biochar promotes the systemic resistance of plants to several prominent foliar pathogens. One potential mechanism for this phenomenon is root-associated microbial elicitors whose presence is somehow augmented in the biochar-amended soils. The objective of this study was to assess the effect of biochar amendment on the root-associated bacterial community composition of mature sweet pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) plants. Molecular fingerprinting (denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism) of 16S rRNA gene fragments showed a clear differentiation between the root-associated bacterial community structures of biochar-amended and control plants. The pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA amplicons from the rhizoplane of both treatments generated a total of 20,142 sequences, 92 to 95% of which were affiliated with the Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Actinobacteria, and Firmicutes phyla. The relative abundance of members of the Bacteroidetes phylum increased from 12 to 30% as a result of biochar amendment, while that of the Proteobacteria decreased from 71 to 47%. The Bacteroidetes-affiliated Flavobacterium was the strongest biochar-induced genus. The relative abundance of this group increased from 4.2% of total rootassociated operational taxonomic units (OTUs) in control samples to 19.6% in biochar-amended samples. Additional biochar-induced genera included chitin and cellulose degraders (Chitinophaga and Cellvibrio, respectively) and aromatic compound degraders (Hydrogenophaga and Dechloromonas). We hypothesize that these biochar-augmented genera may be at least partially responsible for the beneficial effect of biochar amendment on plant growth and viability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4924-4930
Number of pages7
JournalApplied and Environmental Microbiology
Issue number14
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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