The amendment of soil with biochar has been demonstrated to have an effect not only on the soil physicochemical properties, but also on soil microbial community composition and activity. Previous reports have demonstrated significant impacts on soil microbial community structure. These impacts are modulated not only by the biochar composition, but also on the soil’s physicochemical characteristics. This indicates that soil characteristics must be considered prior to biochar amendment. A significant portion of the soils of the southeastern coastal plain are severely degraded and, therefore, candidates for biochar amendment to strengthen soil fertility. In this study we focused on two common soil series in the southeastern coastal plain, utilizing feedstocks endemic to the area. We chose feedstocks in four ratios (100% pine chip; 80:20 mixture of pine chip to poultry litter; 50:50 mixture of pine chip to poultry litter; 100% poultry litter) prior to pyrolysis and soil amendment as a biochar product. Soil was analyzed for bioavailable nutrients via Mehlich-1 extractions, as well as microbial community composition using phospholipid fatty acid analysis (PLFA). Our results demonstrated significant shifts in microbial community composition in response to biochar amendment, the effects of which were greatest with 100% poultry litter biochar. Strong relationships between PLFAs and several Mehlich-1 extractable nutrients (Al, Cu, Fe, and P) were observed.
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