Plant and Soil

, Volume 395, Issue 1–2, pp 125–140 | Cite as

Non-monotonic influence of biochar dose on bean seedling growth and susceptibility to Rhizoctonia solani: the “Shifted Rmax-Effect”

  • Amit K. Jaiswal
  • Omer FrenkelEmail author
  • Yigal Elad
  • Beni Lew
  • Ellen R. Graber
Regular Article



Biochar affects the progress of plant diseases caused by soilborne pathogens, frequently featuring U-shaped biochar dose/disease response curves. This study tested this phenomenon in common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) with several biochars.


Four biochars prepared from two feedstocks (eucalyptus wood and greenhouse wastes) each at 350 and 600 °C were tested on bean seedling growth and infection caused by Rhizoctonia solani at concentrations of 0–3 % by weight. Biochar direct toxicity to R. solani was quantified in vitro.


In general, lower concentrations (1 %) of biochar suppressed damping-off, whereas higher concentrations (3 %) were ineffective at disease protection. Plant growth in the absence of the pathogen was generally improved at all doses by the four biochars. Maximum growth response (G-Rmax) generally occurred at higher biochar doses than maximum disease reduction (D-Rmax). Direct toxicity to the pathogen could not explain disease reduction.


Inverted U-shaped biochar dose/plant growth and biochar dose/disease reduction curves are emerging as common patterns in biochar/crop/pathogen systems. Frequently, the inflection between growth promotion and suppression occurs at different doses than the inflection between disease suppression and promotion. We term this the “Shifted Rmax-Effect”. As there is no simple rule-of-thumb for crop/soil/biochar/dose/pathogen combinations, the possible effects of biochar on plant pathogens should not be overlooked.


Biotic stress Hormesis effect Plant disease Plant productivity Soil amendment Soilborne pathogen 



Area under mortality progress curve


Colony forming units


Effective concentration for 50 % growth inhibition


Eucalyptus wood chips


Gas chromatography - mass spectrometry


Greenhouse pepper plant wastes


Highest Treatment Temperature


Retention time



We thank Indira Paudel, Dalia Rav David, Prof. Dani Shtienberg, Dr. Yephet Ben-Yephet, Menahem Borenshtein, Ludmilla Tsechansky, and Ran Shulhani for their help in the experiments. We would also like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their valuable advice. The research was funded by The Chief Scientist of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Israel. Project no: 1321653. Contribution from the Agricultural Research Organization, The Volcani Center, Bet Dagan, Israel, No: 546/14

Supplementary material

11104_2014_2331_MOESM1_ESM.docx (42 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 42 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amit K. Jaiswal
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Omer Frenkel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yigal Elad
    • 1
  • Beni Lew
    • 3
  • Ellen R. Graber
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Plant Pathology and Weed Research, Institute of Plant Protection, Agricultural Research Organization (ARO)The Volcani CenterBet DaganIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and EnvironmentThe Hebrew University of JerusalemRehovotIsrael
  3. 3.Department of Growing, Production and Environmental Engineering, Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Agricultural Research Organization (ARO)The Volcani CenterBet DaganIsrael
  4. 4.Department of Soil Chemistry, Plant Nutrition and Microbiology, Institute of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences, Agricultural Research Organization (ARO)The Volcani CenterBet DaganIsrael

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