A mycorrhizal fungus grows on biochar and captures phosphorus from its surfaces

Edith Hammer, Zsuzsanna Balogh-Brunstad, Iver Jakobsen, Pål Axel Olsson, Susan L.S. Stipp, Matthias C. Rillig

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Biochar application to soils has potential to simultaneously improve soil fertility and store carbon to aid climate change mitigation. While many studies have shown positive effects on plant yields, much less is known about the synergies between biochar and plant growth promoting microbes, such as mycorrhizal fungi. We present the first evidence that arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi can use biochar as a physical growth matrix and nutrient source. We used monoxenic cultures of the AM fungus Rhizophagus irregularis in symbiosis with carrot roots. Using scanning electron microscopy we observed that AM fungal hyphae grow on and into two contrasting types of biochar particles, strongly attaching to inner and outer surfaces. Loading a nutrient-poor biochar surface with nutrients stimulated hyphal colonization. We labeled biochar surfaces with 33P radiotracer and found that hyphal contact to the biochar surfaces permitted uptake of 33P and its subsequent translocation to the associated host roots. Direct access of fungal hyphae to biochar surfaces resulted in six times more 33P translocation to the host roots than in systems where a mesh prevented hyphal contact with the biochar.We conclude that AM fungal hyphae access microsites within biochar, that are too small for most plant roots to enter (
Original languageEnglish
JournalSoil Biology & Biochemistry
Pages (from-to)252-260
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Adsorption
  • Charcoal
  • Fertilizer
  • Glomus intraradices
  • Phosphate
  • Slow release


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