Biochar is a rich-carbon charcoal obtained by pyrolysis of biomasses, which was used since antiquity as soil amendant. Its storage in soils was demonstrated contributing to abate the effects of climate changes by sequestering carbon, also providing bioenergy, and improving soil characteristics and crop yields. Despite interest in this amendant, there is still poor information on its effects on soil fertility and plant growth. Considerable variation in the plant response has been reported, depending on biomass source, pyrolysis conditions, crop species, and cultivation practices. Due to these conflicting evidences, this work was aimed at studying the effects of biochar from pyrolyzed wood at 550°C, containing 81.1% carbon and 0.91% nitrogen, on growth and yield of tomato plants experiencing low-input farming conditions. San Marzano ecotype from Southern Italy was investigated, due to its renowned quality and adaptability to sustainable farming practices. Biochar administration improved vegetative growth and berry yield, while affecting gene expression and protein repertoire in berries. Different enzymes of carbon metabolism and photosynthesis were over-represented, whereas various stress-responsive and defense proteins were down-represented. Molecular results are here discussed in relation to estimated agronomic parameters to provide a rationale justifying the growth-promoting effect of this soil amendant.
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