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.
More Plant Growth News and Plant Growth Current Events

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

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...