Co-application of biochar and microorganisms improves soybean performance and remediate cadmium-contaminated soil

Fasih Ullah Haider, Jeffrey A. Coulter, Sardar Alam Cheema, Muhammad Farooq, Jun Wu, Renzhi Zhang, Guo Shuaijie, Cai Liqun*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Sole biochar addition or microbial inoculation as a soil amendment helps to reduce cadmium (Cd) toxicity in polluted agricultural soils. Yet the synergistic effects of microorganisms and biochar application on Cd absorption and plant productivity remain unclear. Therefore, a pot experiment was conducted to investigate the combined effect of microorganisms (Trichoderma harzianum L. and Bacillus subtilis L.), biochar (maize straw, cow manure, and poultry manure), and Cd (0, 10, and 30 ppm) on plant physiology and growth to test how biochar influences microbial growth and plant nutrient uptake, and how biochar ameliorates under Cd-stressed soil. Results showed that in comparison to non-Cd polluted soil, the highest reduction in chlorophyll content, photosynthetic rate, transpiration rate, stomatal conductance, water use efficiency, and intercellular CO2 were observed in Cd2 (30 ppm), which were 9.34%, 22.95%, 40.45%, 29.07%, 20.67%, and 22.55% respectively less than the control Cd0 (0 ppm). Among sole inoculation of microorganisms, highest stomatal conductance, water use efficiency, and intercellular CO2 were recorded with combined inoculation of both microorganisms (M3), which were 5.92%, 7.65%, and 7.28% respectively higher than the control, and reduced the Cd concentration in soil, root, and shoot by 21.34%, 28.36%, and 20.95%, respectively, compared to the control. Similarly, co-application of microorganisms and biochar ameliorated the adverse effect of Cd in soybean as well as significantly improved plant biomass, photosynthetic activity, nutrient contents, and antioxidant enzyme activities, and minimized the production of reactive oxygen species and Cd content in plants. Soil amended with poultry manure biochar had significantly improved the soil organic carbon, total nitrogen, total phosphorous, and available potassium by 43.53%, 36.97%, 22.28%, and 4.24%, respectively, and decreased the concentration of Cd in plant root and shoot by 34.68% and 47.96%, respectively, compared to the control. These findings indicate that the combined use of microorganisms and biochar as an amendment have important synergistic effects not only on the absorption of nutrients but also on the reduction of soybean Cd intake, and improve plant physiology of soybean cultivated in Cd-polluted soils as compared to sole application of microorganisms or biochar.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112112
JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Bacillus subtilis L.
  • Biochar
  • Cd toxicity
  • Plant physiology
  • Synergistic effect
  • Trichoderma harzianum L.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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