Nav: Home

Study finds greenhouse gas reduction strategy may be safe for soil animals

June 01, 2011

A new study has found that an emerging tool for combating climate change may cause less harm to some soil animals than initial studies suggested.

Earthworms perform many essential and beneficial functions in the soil ecosystem, including soil structure improvement and nutrient mineralization. However the earthworms' ability to perform these crucial functions can be suppressed when they are exposed to toxic substances.

A Baylor University geology researcher, along with scientists from Rice University, tested a new soil additive called biochar for its effects on the common earthworm. The researchers found that wetting the biochar before applying it to the soil mitigates the harmful effects of biochar to earthworms and the earthworms' avoidance of soil with biochar.

"Because of the high potential for widespread application, it is essential to proactively assess and mitigate any unintended consequences associated with biochar soil enrichment," said study co-author Dr. Bill Hockaday, assistant professor of geology at Baylor. "The results show us that depending on rainfall patterns and irrigation, wetting biochar either before or immediately after soil application would be needed to prevent the disappearance of earthworms and enable their beneficial effects on plants."

The results appeared in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry.

Biochar is of increasing interest because of concerns about climate change caused by emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It is a byproduct of renewable energy and fuel production from plant materials like forest wastes and crop residues. Biochar is a form of charcoal that enhances soil fertility and plant growth by increasing soil water and nutrient retention, and can store carbon in the soil for hundreds of years.

The researchers found that earthworms avoided soil enriched with dry biochar, and when they were exposed, their weight decreased. After performing several different tests, the researchers found that insufficient moisture was a key factor affecting earthworm behavior in soil enriched with dry biochar. The researchers also found that biochar did not affect earthworm reproduction.

"Most importantly, we are the first to demonstrate that biochar did not stress the immune system of a very sensitive soil organism," said Dong Li, study co-author and a graduate student at Rice. "This is an important step forward for a very promising strategy in combating climate change."
-end-


Baylor University

Related Plant Growth Articles:

Plant cell walls' stretch-but-don't-break growth more complex than once thought
Plant cell wall growth is typically described as a simple process, but researchers using a microscope that can resolve images on the nanoscale level have observed something more complex.
Electronics to control plant growth
A drug delivery ion pump constructed from organic electronic components also works in plants.
Researchers develop equation that helps to explain plant growth
New UCLA biology breakthrough has important implications for plants as they adapt to a warming environment.
Mutant maize offers key to understanding plant growth
New findings by a University of California, Riverside-led team of researchers, lend support to the second idea, that the orientation of cell division is critical for overall plant growth.
How plant cells regulate growth shown for the first time
Researchers have managed to show how the cells in a plant, a multicellular organism, determine their size and regulate their growth over time.
Compounds produced by phytopathogenic microbes encourage plant growth
A broad range of microorganisms, including phytopathogenic fungi and bacteria, are capable of producing volatile compounds that encourage plant growth, flowering and the accumulation of reserve substances.
Compounds emitted by phytopathogen microbes encourage plant growth
A wide range of microorganisms, including fungi and phytopathogenic bacteria, are capable of emitting volatile compounds which boost plant growth and flowering, and in accumulating up reserves as demonstrated in a study led by scientific researchers at Navarra's Institute of Agro biotechnology, in northern Spain, which is a mixed centre shared between Spain's National Research Council (CSIC), the Public University of Navarra, and the Regional Government of Navarra.
Ancient proteins shown to control plant growth
A UCLA-led international team of life scientists reports the discovery of new mechanisms regulating plant growth that quite possibly provide new insights into how the mammalian biological clock affects human health.
Study finds that plant growth responses to high carbon dioxide depend on symbiotic fungi
Research by an international team of environmental scientists from the United Kingdom, Belgium and United States, including Indiana University, has found that plants that associate with one type of symbiotic fungi grow bigger in response to high levels of carbon dioxide, or CO2, in the atmosphere, but plants that associate with the other major type of symbiotic fungi do not.
New understanding of plant growth brings promise of tailored products for industry
In the search for low-emission plant-based fuels, new research could lead to sustainable alternatives to fossil fuel-based products.

Related Plant Growth Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".