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Influence of biochar on the heavy metal tolerance of Chenopodium quinoa.

Wolfram E. Buß (2010)

Bachelorthesis vom 27.08.2010


Influence of biochar on the heavy metal tolerance of Chenopodium quinoa.

Einfluss von Biochar auf die Schwermetalltoleranz von Chenopodium quinoa.


Heavy metal contaminated soils are a well-known phenomenon scientists have been dealing with for many years. One of these possible toxic metals is copper which is an essential element in the plant’s metabolism. While the plant benefits from low concentrations, high concentrations have damaging effects. Biochar consisting of organic compounds has a positive influence on soil fertility and may have the power to bound copper. First this charred carbon was used in the Amazon region thousands of years ago and it has been rediscovered for investigations recently. Biochar’s influence on copper toxicity and copper toxicity in general are investigated in this bachelor thesis by using Chenopodium quinoa as test plant. Chenopodium quinoa Willd. is a nutrient-rich plant whose origin is the Andean region in South America and just has been attracting interest among scientists through its huge stress tolerance. Different methods were used to determine the reaction of quinoa growing on copper-enriched sandy soil. On the plant level, the gas exchange, superoxide-dismutase-activity caused by oxidative burst and cation concentrations (Cu, Mg, K, Ca) were measured. Additionally, on soil level some parameters such as the water content, the gas exchange and the extractable copper concentration were analyzed.

The results show that oxidative burst through copper concentrations of 200 μg Cu/g soil leads to the death of young quinoa plants, while 50 μg Cu/g soil leads to high damages. These damaging effects were reductions of the biomass of 65 % in relation to the control (p = 0.020) and a significant inhibition of the photosynthesis per leave area. The primary cause might be the destruction of the membranes by high copper concentrations. These high concentrations were measured in all parts of the plant whereas the root reached the highest ones (114.1 μg Cu/dry weight). Plants grown on copper contaminated soils amended with biochar showed a higher biomass than without biochar and nearly no inhibition of the gas exchange. It was discovered that the bio-available copper concentration was reduced by biochar dramatically (97.5 % by 4 % biochar with 200 μg Cu/g soil). Obviously, biochar bound the copper to its high surface area. As a consequence, less copper reached the plant and damages to the plant were reduced.