Top 15 most downloaded article of 2014

Jan 13, 2015

Does biochar application lead to increased plant growth but at a cost to plant defence? Maud Viger of the University of Southampton in Gail Taylor’s group lead a research article showing the first global gene expression data for plants grown in biochar; the article has been widely received. Indeed the article, which acknowledges Carbo-BioCrop, was within the top 15 most downloaded papers of 2014 published by Global Change Biology Bioenergy (GCB-B).


The research of Viger et al casts doubts over the use of biochar to tackle the effects of climate change. It is widely thought that the burial of the carbon rich substance biochar could lock-up carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, whilst at the same time, promote plant growth. If true, biochar could prove very valuable within farming and energy production systems. However, much remains unknown about how biochar application leads to increased plant growth and the aim of this research was to identify the mechanisms responsible for this increase.


When subjected to field concentrations of biochar,  Arabidopsis (thale cress, a ‘model’ plant) and lettuce plants grew up to twice as fast in biochar-treated soil. Through global gene expression analysis, this response has been attributed to growth hormones auxin and brassinosteroids. However, surprisingly, the analysis also revealed suppressed expression of defence genes such as those relating to jasmonic acid and ethylene. This result suggests extreme caution should be used when advocating the widescale application of biochar. To read the research article yourself please follow the link at the bottom of the page.


Within the journal GCB-B top 15 most downloaded articles of 2014, 7 articles are co-written by Carbo-BioCrop members demonstrating the relevance and impact of our work.


By Dr Suzanne Milner