A laboratory study was conducted to test the effects of biochars made from different feedstocks on soil quality indicators of arid soils. Biochars were produced from four locally-available agricultural residues: pecan shells, pecan orchard prunings, cotton gin trash, and yard waste, using a lab-scale pyrolyzer operated at 450 °C under a nitrogen environment and slow pyrolysis conditions. Two local arid soils used for crop production, a sandy loam and a clay loam, were amended with these biochars at a rate of 45 Mg·ha−1
and incubated for three weeks in a growth chamber. The soils were analyzed for multiple soil quality indicators including soil organic matter content, pH, electrical conductivity (EC), and available nutrients. Results showed that amendment with cotton gin trash biochar has the greatest impact on both soils, significantly increasing SOM and plant nutrient (P, K, Ca, Mn) contents, as well as increasing the electrical conductivity, which creates concerns about soil salinity. Other biochar treatments significantly elevated soil salinity in clay loam soil, except for pecan shell biochar amended soil, which was not statistically different in EC from the control treatment. Generally, the effects of the biochar amendments were minimal for many soil measurements and varied with soil texture. Effects of biochars on soil salinity and pH/nutrient availability will be important considerations for research on biochar application to arid soils.
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