Potential of silicon-rich biochar (Sichar) amendment to control crop pests and pathogens in agroecosystems: A review

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The Science of the total environment


We reviewed the potential of silicon (Si)-rich biochars (sichars) as crop amendments for pest and pathogen control. The main pathosystems that emerged from our systematic literature search were bacterial wilt on solanaceous crops (mainly tomato, pepper, tobacco and eggplant), piercing-sucking hemipteran pests and soil-borne fungi on gramineous crops (mainly rice and wheat), and parasitic nematodes on other crops. The major pest and pathogen mitigation pathways identified were: i) Si-based physical barriers; ii) Induction of plant defenses; iii) Enhancement of plant-beneficial/pathogen-antagonistic soil microflora in the case of root nematodes; iv) Alteration of soil physical-chemical properties resulting in Eh-pH conditions unfavorable to root nematodes; v) Alteration of soil physical-chemical properties resulting in Eh-pH, bulk density and/or water holding capacity favorable to plant growth and resulting tolerance to necrotrophic pathogens; vi) Increased Si uptake resulting in reduced plant quality, owing to reduced nitrogen intake towards some hemi-biotrophic pests or pathogens. Our review highlighted synergies between pathways and tradeoffs between others, depending, inter alia, on: i) crop type (notably whether Si-accumulating or not); ii) pest/pathogen type (e.g. below-ground/root-damaging vs above-ground/aerial part-damaging; "biotrophic" vs "necrotrophic" sensu lato, and corresponding systemic resistance pathways; thriving Eh-pH spectrum; etc.); iii) soil type. Our review also stressed the need for further research on: i) the contribution of Si and other physical-chemical characteristics of biochars (including potential antagonistic effects); ii) the pyrolysis process to a) optimize Si availability in the soil and its uptake by the crop and b) to minimize formation of harmful compounds e.g. cristobalite; iii) on the optimal form of biochar, e.g. Si-nano particles on the surface of the biochar, micron-sized biochar-based compound fertilizer vs larger biochar porous matrices.

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