Biochar soil amendment can improve growing medium water and nutrient status and crop productivity. A pot experiment was conducted using Solanum lycopersicum var. cerasiforme plants to investigate the effects of biochar amendment (20% application rate) on a soilless substrate, as well as on plant growth, fruit yield, and quality. During the experiment, substrate characteristics, plant morphological traits, and root and leaf C/N content were analyzed at three sampling points defined as early stage (36 days after germination), vegetative stage (84 days a. g.), and fruit stage (140 days a. g.). Fruit morphological traits, titratable acidity, lycopene, and solid soluble content were measured at the end of the experiment. Biochar ameliorated substrate characteristics (N-av increase of 17% and C-tot increase of 13% at the beginning of the study), resulting in a promotion effect on plant root, shoot, and leaf morphology mainly at the vegetative and fruit stages. Indeed, at these two sampling points, the biochar-treated plants had a greater number of leaves (38 and 68 at the vegetative and fruit stages, respectively) than the untreated plants (32 and 49, respectively). The biochar also increased leaf area with a rise of 26% and 36% compared with the values measured in the untreated plants. Moreover, the amendment increased twofold root length, root surface area, and root, stem, and leaf biomasses in comparison with untreated plants. Regarding plant productivity, although fruit morphology remained unchanged, biochar increased flower and fruit numbers (six times and two times, respectively), acidity (75%), lycopene (28%), and solid soluble content (16%). By unveiling promoting changes in morphological traits, fruit number, and antioxidant content occurring in cherry tomato plants growing in a biochar-treated soilless substrate, it could be possible to highlight the importance of biochar for future applications in the field for enhancing plant production and fruit quality in a sustainable agriculture framework.
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