Biochar and plant growth promoting rhizobacteria effects on switchgrass (Panicum virgatum cv. Cave-in-Rock) for biomass production in southern Québec depend on soil type and location
Shanta N., Schwinghamer T., Backer R., Allaire SE., Teshler I., Vanasse A., Whalen J., Baril B., Lange S., MacKay J., Zhou X., Smith DL.
© 2016 Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a fast growing native C 4 perennial and a lignocellulosic biomass crop for North America. In combination with biochar, an active plant growth promoting rhizobacterial (PGPR) community can contribute to the long-term sequestration of carbon in soil, fix nitrogen, and enhance the availability of other nutrients to plants. Biochar and PGPR have the potential to improve grass biomass production, but they have not been tested together under high-latitude temperate zone field conditions. Therefore, the objective of this three-year field study was to determine whether there were effects on biomass yield and yield components of switchgrass (cv. Cave-in-Rock) due to a rhizobacterium that was able to mobilize soil phosphorus (Pseudomonas rhodesiae), a bacterial consortium that was able to supply nitrogen (Paenibacillus polymyxa, Rahnella sp., and Serrati sp.), and pine wood chip biochar applied as a soil amendment at 20 Mg ha −1 . The incorporation of biochar, or inoculation with the N-fixing consortium, and the combined inoculation of the experimental bacteria had positive effects on switchgrass height. At a loam soil site in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec, when nitrogen fertilizer was not applied, the addition of biochar had a positive effect on stand count (tillers m −1 row). On the sandy soil in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, when biochar was applied with 100 kg N ha −1 , biomass yield increased over the control but did not provide additional benefits over plots receiving only 50 kg N ha −1 . It remains unclear whether or not the increased C sequestration of this management system justifies increased N fertilizer usage.