Biochar quiets microbes, including some plant pathogens

October 7, 2013 |

In Texas, Rice University scientists have used synthetic biology to study how a popular soil amendment called “biochar” can interfere with the chemical signals that some microbes use to communicate. The class of compounds studied includes those used by some plant pathogens to coordinate their attacks.

Study co-author Joff Silberg, associate professor of biochemistry and cell biology and of bioengineering at Rice explains, “Some microbes help plants and others are harmful. That means there’s good communication [chemical sigals] and bad communication going on in the soil at the same time. We think it’s likely that some biochars will knock out some conversations and not others, so we want to test that idea and, if possible, come up with a way to tailor biochar for the microbial diversity that’s desired.”

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