Soilless tomato grown under nutritional stress increases green biomass but not yield or quality in presence of biochar as growing medium

  • Massa DanieleEmail author
  • Bonetti Alessandra
  • Cacini Sonia
  • Faraloni Cecilia
  • Prisa Domenico
  • Tuccio Lorenza
  • Petruccelli Raffaella
Research Report


Biochar has been reported to improve soil fertility and growing medium performance. However, the role that biochar plays in plant nutrition is not completely understood, especially in plants grown under nutritional stress. Recent research indicates that the addition of biochar increases produce yield of tomato grown under salinity stress and drought; however, little information is available about the effects of biochar on fruit quality parameters. The use of biochar as a growth substrate in an intensive greenhouse cropping system may have the capacity of replacing non-renewable and less sustainable growing media like peat and in addition being a strategy to optimize chemical fertilisation. This work aimed to investigate the effects of biochar, as a potential candidate to replace peat, on tomato growing in soilless conditions under nutritional stress. Plant biomass accumulation, leaf fluorescence and chlorophyll, fruit yield and fruit quality parameters were measured as performance indicators. Biochar increased the green biomass, but it did not significantly affect yield or most quality parameters, apart from potassium content in ripe fruits. These results suggest that biochar has great potential as a peat alternative material and plant growth promoter, but no ability to improve tomato yield, under nutritional stress.


Crop sustainability Fruit quality Nutrient stress Peat replacement Polyphenols Substrate improvers 



The authors thank Mr. Paolo Bini for his technical support managing greenhouse equipment.

Author’s contribution

Massa Daniele and Petruccelli Raffaella: design and conception of the experiment, part of laboratory analysis and greenhouse samplings, data collection, data analysis and elaboration, manuscript writing; Bonetti Alessandra and Cacini Sonia: fruit laboratory analyses; Faraloni Cecilia and Tuccio Lorenza: physiological analyses; Prisa Domenico: greenhouse sample collection, biometric and phenological measurements, destructive analysis; all authors: materials and methods writing and manuscript revision.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Korean Society for Horticultural Science 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CREA Research Centre for Vegetable and Ornamental CropsCouncil for Agricultural Research and EconomicsPesciaItaly
  2. 2.CNR-IRET Istituto di Ricerca sugli Ecositemi TerrestriConsiglio Nazionale delle RicercheSesto FiorentinoItaly
  3. 3.CNR-IVALSA Istituto per la Valorizzazione del Legno e delle Specie ArboreeConsiglio Nazionale delle RicercheSesto FiorentinoItaly
  4. 4.CNR-IFAC Istituto di Fisica Applicata “Nello Carraro”Consiglio Nazionale delle RicercheSesto FiorentinoItaly

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