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Effect of volatile organic compounds absorbed to fresh biochar on survival of Bacillus mucilaginosus and structure of soil microbial communities

An Erratum to this article was published on 14 December 2014

Abstract

Purpose

Biochar is considered difficult for microorganisms to decompose, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) sorbed to fresh biochar may affect the survival rate of inoculants or the structure of soil microbial communities. We tested the hypotheses that VOCs on fresh biochar may play a vital role in shaping the structure of soil microbial communities and determined if they inhibited or supported the growth of inoculants.

Materials and methods

We examined the growth of Bacillus mucilaginosus in mushroom medium-based biochar (MM-biochar), corn stalk-based biochar (CS-biochar), and rice straw-based biochar (RS-biochar) in comparison with peat. The composition of VOCs before and after the incubation was characterized by pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy (GC-MS). The structure of a soil microbial community incubated in biochar was examined via denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) was applied to reveal the contribution of pH, K and Na, and diversity indices from VOC fingerprints to diversity indices in DGGE profiles.

Results and discussion

In the present study, all biochars were able to support B. mucilaginosus at population densities analogous to peat. Phenols comprise a fraction of the VOCs that potentially could be toxic to some microbes and inhibit their growth in the short time. The structure of the inoculated soil microbial communities in terms of the diversity indices calculated from 16S ribosomal DNA (16S rDNA) and 18S rDNA DGGE profiles was greatly affected by biochar. Besides, CCA revealed the role of VOCs in shaping the structure of soil microbial communities.

Conclusions

VOCs absorbed to biochar, despite their short life spans, could support the survival of B. mucilaginosus, demonstrating the potential of biochars as carriers for inoculants. The changes in the soil microbial communities induced by fresh biochar may not represent the long-term “biochar effect.” Therefore, future work needs to appreciate mechanisms underlying aged biochar on the structure of soil microbial communities.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge funding from Special Fund for Agro-scientific Research in Public Interest (201303095), National Key Technology R&D Program of the Ministry of Science and Technology (2012BAD14B01), and Research and Application of the Soil Amelioration Technology upon Tobacco Cultivation & Biochar Incorporation. Also, this work was supported by Graduate Student Innovation Cultivation Program, Shenyang Agricultural University. We would like to express our gratitude to Lauren Hale for her assistance to the language polishing.

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Correspondence to Wenfu Chen.

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Daquan Sun and Jun Meng contributed equally to this work.

Responsible editor: Leo Condron

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Sun, D., Meng, J., Liang, H. et al. Effect of volatile organic compounds absorbed to fresh biochar on survival of Bacillus mucilaginosus and structure of soil microbial communities. J Soils Sediments 15, 271–281 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-014-0996-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-014-0996-z

Keywords

  • Biochar
  • Inoculant
  • Soil microbial community
  • Volatile organic compound