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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Effects of biochar on soil properties and erosion potential in a highly weathered soil

Abstract

Highly weathered soils in humid Asia are characterized by low soil fertility and high soil erosion potential. This study evaluates the influences of biochar made from the waste wood of white lead trees (Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit) on the physicochemical and biological properties of long-term cultivated, acidic Ultisol. This study used three application rates (0%, 2.5%, and 5% (wt/wt)) of the biochar with an incubation time of 105 d for all cases. Soils were collected at 21 d, 42 d, 63 d, 84 d and 105 d during the incubation period to evaluate changes in soil properties over time. A simulated rainfall event (80 mm h− 1) was performed to estimate soil loss for all treatments at the end of the incubation time. Experimental results indicate that applying biochar improved the physicochemical and biological properties of the highly weathered soils, including significant increases in soil pH from 3.9 to 5.1, cation exchange capacity from 7.41 to 10.8 cmol (+) kg− 1, base cation percentage from 6.40 to 26.0%, and microbial biomass carbon (MBC) from 835 to 1262 mg kg− 1. Compared with the control (i.e., no biochar), biochar application decreased bulk density from 1.4 to 1.1 Mg m− 3, increased Ksat by 1.8 times and increased the mean weight diameter (MWD) of soil aggregates from 2.6 cm to 4.0 cm. Incorporating biochar into the soil significantly reduced soil loss by 50% and 64% at 2.5% and 5% application rates, respectively, compared with the control. The formation of macroaggregates in the biochar-amended soils is the critical factor to improve soil erosion potential. Based on these results, a 5% application rate of biochar is considered as suitable for highly weathered soil because this application rate efficiently improves soil physiochemical properties and reduces soil loss.
Shih-Hao JienCorresponding author contact information, E-mail the corresponding author,
Chien-Sheng Wang
Department of Soil and Water Conservation, National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, Pingtung 91201, Taiwan
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