Special Issue "Effect of Biochar Application on Soil Physical Properties and Soil Water Availability"

A special issue of Agronomy (ISSN 2073-4395).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2017)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Marcus Hardie

Perennial Horticulture Centre, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 98, Hobart, Tasmania, 7001, Australia
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Biochar has been widely promoted as a means to improve a range of soil properties, including soil density, water holding capacity, plant available water content, infiltration, and drainage. Biochar is a highly porous, predominantly stable, recalcitrant organic carbon compound created by pyrolysis of natural organic materials at temperatures between 300 and 1000 °C under low or no oxygen conditions. Biochars consist of multiple interconnected networks of miropores, mesopores and macropores, which have the potential to directly contribute to soil porosity and, thus, water storage and availability. Biochar may also facilitate the creation of packing or accommodation pores between biochar and the surrounding soil aggregates, act to prevent the loss of existing soil pores by improving aggregate stability, or create biopores by increasing invertebrate activity or root growth. Research on the effects of biochar on soil porosity and water availability has yielded mixed results with at least some biochars, when applied to some soils, at some rates resulting in the creation of macropores and mesopores resulting in measurable improvements in hydraulic conductivity, soil water holding capacity, etc. However, considerable uncertainty exists as to which biochars, or which biochar properties, are able to produce measurable improvement in soil porosity and function for a wide range of in situ agricultural soils.

Dr. Marcus Hardie
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • Porosity
  • Macroporosity
  • Soil water holding capacity
  • Soil water retention
  • Plant available water content
  • Soil density

Published Papers (2 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Impact of Different Agricultural Waste Biochars on Maize Biomass and Soil Water Content in a Brazilian Cerrado Arenosol
Received: 31 May 2017 / Revised: 3 July 2017 / Accepted: 14 July 2017 / Published: 20 July 2017
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (2769 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Arenosols in the Brazilian Cerrado are increasingly being used for agricultural production, particularly maize. These sandy soils are characterized by low soil organic matter, low available nutrients, and poor water-holding capacity. For this reason, adding biochar as a soil amendment could lead to [...] Read more.
Arenosols in the Brazilian Cerrado are increasingly being used for agricultural production, particularly maize. These sandy soils are characterized by low soil organic matter, low available nutrients, and poor water-holding capacity. For this reason, adding biochar as a soil amendment could lead to improved water and nutrient retention. A greenhouse experiment was carried out using twelve biochars derived from four feedstocks (cotton husks, swine manure, eucalyptus sawmill residue, sugarcane filtercake) pyrolized at 400, 500 and 600 °C and applied at 5% w/w. The biochars’ effect on maize biomass was examined, along with their contribution to soil physical properties including water retention, electrical conductivity (EC), and grain size distribution. After six weeks, maize plants in soils with eucalyptus and particularly filtercake biochar had higher biomass compared to those in soils with cotton and swine manure biochars. The latter’s low biomass was likely related to excessive salinity. In general, our biochars showed potential for increasing θ in sandy soils compared to the soil alone. Filtercake and eucalyptus biochars may improve soil aeration and water infiltration, while applying cotton and swine manure biochars at levels <5% to avoid high salinity could contribute to improved soil water retention in Cerrado Arenosols. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Biochar for Horticultural Rooting Media Improvement: Evaluation of Biochar from Gasification and Slow Pyrolysis
Received: 19 October 2016 / Revised: 25 November 2016 / Accepted: 19 December 2016 / Published: 7 January 2017
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (1752 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Peat is used as rooting medium in greenhouse horticulture. Biochar is a sustainable alternative for the use of peat, which will reduce peat derived carbon dioxide emissions. Biochar in potting soil mixtures allegedly increases water storage, nutrient supply, microbial life and disease suppression [...] Read more.
Peat is used as rooting medium in greenhouse horticulture. Biochar is a sustainable alternative for the use of peat, which will reduce peat derived carbon dioxide emissions. Biochar in potting soil mixtures allegedly increases water storage, nutrient supply, microbial life and disease suppression but this depends on feedstock and the production process. The aim of this paper is to find combinations of feedstock and production circumstances which will deliver biochars with value for the horticultural end user. Low-temperature (600 °C–750 °C) gasification was used for combined energy and biochar generation. Biochars produced were screened in laboratory tests and selected biochars were used in plant experiments. Tests included dry bulk density, total pore space, specific surface area, phytotoxicity, pH, EC, moisture characteristics and microbial stability. We conclude that biochars from nutrient-rich feedstocks are too saline and too alkaline to be applied in horticultural rooting media. Biochars from less nutrient-rich feedstocks can be conveniently neutralized by mixing with acid peat. The influence of production parameters on specific surface area, pH, total pore space and toxicity is discussed. Biochar mildly improved the survival of beneficial micro-organisms in a mix with peat. Overall, wood biochar can replace at least 20% v/v of peat in potting soils without affecting plant growth. Full article
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