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Biochar has been reported to play a positive role in disease suppression against airborne pathogens in plants. The mechanisms behind this positive trait are not well-understood. In this study, we hypothesized that the attraction of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) or fungi (PGPF) underlies the mechanism of biochar in plant protection. The attraction of PGPR and PGPF may either activate the innate immune system of plants or help the plants with nutrient uptake. We studied the effect of biochar in peat substrate (PS) on the susceptibility of strawberry, both on leaves and fruits, against the airborne fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea. Biochar had a positive impact on the resistance of strawberry fruits but not the plant leaves. On leaves, the infection was more severe compared with plants without biochar in the PS. The different effects on fruits and plant leaves may indicate a trade-off between plant parts. Future studies should focus on monitoring gene expression and metabolites of strawberry fruits to investigate this potential trade-off effect. A change in the microbial community in the rhizosphere was also observed, with increased fungal diversity and higher abundances of amplicon sequence variants classified into Granulicella, Mucilaginibacter, and Byssochlamys surrounding the plant root, where the latter two were reported as biocontrol agents. The change in the microbial community was not correlated with a change in nutrient uptake by the plant in either the leaves or the fruits. A decrease in the defense gene expression in the leaves was observed. In conclusion, the decreased infection of B. cinerea in strawberry fruits mediated by the addition of biochar in the PS is most likely regulated by the changes in the microbial community.
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BASTA: BASTA: Biochar’s Added value in Sustainable land use with Targeted Applications in processes, growing media & (future proof) open-field cultivation
1/01/19 → 31/12/22