• Soils, Sec 3 • Remediation and Management of Contaminated or Degraded Lands • Research Article
  • Published:

In situ immobilization of Cr and its availability to maize plants in tannery waste–contaminated soil: effects of biochar feedstock and pyrolysis temperature

  • 96 Accesses



Tannery waste–contaminated soil has a high amount of several toxic chemicals and heavy metals including chromium (Cr), which makes it unsuitable for agriculture practices. Majority of studies have reported the use of biochar (BC) as an amendment to restore contaminated soil. The efficiency of BC to immobilize Cr depends on its pretreatment and feedstock. This study aimed to investigate the potential of using BC for Cr immobilization and reducing its availability to maize plants in tannery waste–contaminated soil. The effect of BC on plant growth and heavy metal (Cr, Cu, Zn, Pb, Fe, and Mn) contents of maize shoots was also investigated.

Materials and methods

The soil was collected from landfill areas of Riyadh city (N 24° 25′, E 46° 34′). BCs were produced by pyrolyzing jujube (Ziziphus spina-christi) leaves (JL) and manure (M) waste at 300 and 700 °C. Collected soil and produced materials were characterized physically and chemically by following standard procedure. A greenhouse pot experiment was conducted with unamended tannery waste–contaminated soil and soil amended with the obtained BCs (JLBC-300, JLBC-700, MBC-300, and MBC-700) at an application rate of 50 g kg−1 and cultivated with maize (Zea mays L.). Before cultivation, soil-soluble Cr was measured in five leachate cycles. Dry matter and heavy metal (Cr, Cu, Zn, Pb, Fe, and Mn) contents of maize shoots were measured after harvesting.

Results and discussion

The results show that BCs produced at 700 °C showed the highest decrease in the concentrations of soil-soluble Cr and reduced its cumulative concentrations in soil leachates by about 93% and 59.0% for MBC-700 and JLBC-700 compared with the control soil, respectively. Overall, the highest decrease in cumulative soluble Cr was pronounced for MBC-700 followed by JLBC-700. For heavy metal contents in shoots, Cr concentrations were under detection limit in all treatments. However, BC amendments showed significant differences from the control for Cu, Mn, and Fe.


From findings, it could be concluded that application of BCs pyrolyzed at 700 °C (especially for MBC-700) could be used as an amendment for reducing Cr mobility in tannery waste–contaminated soil and may create favorable conditions for crop production.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 199

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. Adriano DC, Wenzel WW, Vangronsveld BNS (2004) Role of assisted natural remediation in environmental cleanup. Geoderma 122(2–4):121–142

  2. Aller MF (2016) Biochar properties: transport, fate, and impact M. Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 46(14–15):1183–1296

  3. Al-Wabel MI, Usman AR, El-Naggar AH, Aly AA, Ibrahim HM, Elmaghraby S, Al-Omran A (2015) Conocarpus biochar as a soil amendment for reducing heavy metal availability and uptake by maize plants. Saudi J Biol Sci 22(4):503–511

  4. Al-Wabel MI, Usman ARA, Al-Farraj AS, Ok YS, Abduljabbar A, Al-Faraj AI, Sallam AS (2017) Date palm waste biochars alter a soil respiration, microbial biomass carbon, and heavy metal mobility in contaminated mined soil. Environ Geochem Health.

  5. ASTM, D 1762-84 (1989) Standard method for chemical analysis of wood charcoal. Philadelphia, PA, USA

  6. Azcue J, Mudroch A (1994) Comparison of different washing, ashing, and digestion methods for the analysis of trace elements in vegetation. Int J Environ Anal Chem 57:151–162

  7. Beesley L, Moreno-Jiménez E, Gomez-Eyles JL, Harris E, Robinson B, Sizmur T (2011) A review of biochars’ potential role in the remediation, revegetation and restoration of contaminated soils. Environ Pollut 159:3269–3282

  8. Bolan N, Kunhikrishnan A, Thangarajan R, Kumpiene J, Park J, Makino T, Scheckel K (2013) Remediation of heavy metal (loid) s contaminated soils–to mobilize or to immobilize. J Hazard Mater 266:141–166

  9. Bouyoucos GJ (1962) Hydrometer method improvement for making particle size analysis of soils. Agron J 54:179–186

  10. Cao X, Harris W (2010) Properties of dairy-manure-derived biochar pertinent to its potential use in remediation. Bioresour Technol 101:5222–5228

  11. Choppala GK, Bolan NS, Megharaj M, Chen Z, Naidu R (2012) The influence of biochar and black carbon on reduction and bioavailability of chromate in soils. J Environ Qual 41:1175–1184

  12. Dong J, Yang QW, Sun LN, Zeng Q, Liu SJ, Pan J, Liu XL (2011) Assessing the concentration and potential dietary risk of heavy metals in vegetables at a Pb/Zn mine site, China. Environ Earth Sci 64:1317–1321

  13. Famielec S, Wieczorek-Ciurowa K (2011) Waste from leather industry. Threats to the environment. Technical Transactions PK 108(1-Ch):43–48

  14. Fela K, Wieczorek-Ciurowa K, Konopka M, Woźny Z (2011) Present and prospective leather industry waste disposal. Pol J Chem Technol 13(3):53–55

  15. Fellet G, Marchiol L, Delle Vedove G, Peressotti A (2011) Application of biochar on mine tailings: effects and perspectives for land reclamation. Chemosphere 83:1262–1297

  16. Fuertes AB, Arbestain MC, Sevilla M, Maciá-Agulló JA, Fiol S, López R, Smernik RJ, Aitkenhead WP, Arce F, Macias F (2010) Chemical and structural properties of carbonaceous products obtained by pyrolysis and hydrothermal carbonisation of corn stover. Aust J Soil Res 48:618–626

  17. Gai X, Wang H, Liu J, Zhai L, Liu S, Ren T, Liu F (2014) Effects of feedstock and pyrolysis temperature on biochar adsorption of ammonium and nitrate. PLoS One 9(12):e113888.

  18. Hamid Y, Tang K, Sohail MI, Cao X, Hussain B, Aziz MZ, Usman M, He Z, Yang X (2019) An explanation of soil amendments to reduce cadmium phytoavailability and transfer to food chain. Sci Total Environ 660:80–96

  19. Harris J, McCartor A (2011) Blacksmith Institute’s the world’s worst toxic pollution problems. Report. Blacksmith Institute, Green Cross Switzerland, Zurich

  20. Herath I, Iqbal MCM, Al-Wabel MI, Abduljabbar A, Ahmad M, Usman AR, Vithanage M (2017) Bioenergy-derived waste biochar for reducing mobility, bioavailability, and phytotoxicity of chromium in anthropized tannery soil. J Soils Sediments 17(3):731–740

  21. Houben D, Evrard L, Sonnet P (2013) Beneficial effects of biochar application to contaminated soils on the bioavailability of Cd, Pb and Zn and the biomass production of rapeseed (Brassica napus L.). Biomass Bioenergy 57:196–204

  22. Hsu NH, Wang SL, Lin YC, Sheng GD, Lee JF (2009) Reduction of Cr(VI) by crop-residue-derived black carbon. Environ Sci Technol 43:8801–8806

  23. Jenkins R, Barton J (2002) Environmental regulation in the new global economy: the impact on industry and competitiveness. Edward Elgar Publishing

  24. Kumarathilaka P, Ahmad M, Herath I, Mahatantila K, Athapattu BCL, Rinklebe J, Ok YS, Usman A, Al-Wabel MI, Abduljabbar A, Vithanage M (2018) Influence of bioenergy waste biochar on proton- and ligand-promoted release of Pb and Cu in a shooting range soil. Sci Total Environ 625:547–554

  25. Lehmann J (2007) Bio-energy in the black. Front Ecol Environ 5(7):381–387

  26. Lehmann J, Joseph S (2015) Biochar for environmental management: science, technology and implementation. Routledge

  27. Li F, Shen K, Long X, Wen J, Xie X, Zeng X (2016) Preparation and characterization of biochars from Eichornia crassipes for cadmium removal in aqueous solutions. PLoS One 11:e0148132.

  28. Lu H, Zhang YY, Huang X, Wang S, Qiu R (2012) Relative distribution of Pb2+ sorption mechanisms by sludge-derived biochar. Water Res 46:854–862

  29. Méndez A, Gómez A, Paz-Ferreiro J, Gascó G (2012) Effects of sewage sludge biochar on plant metal availability after application to a Mediterranean soil. Chemosphere 89(11):1354–1359

  30. Mukherjee A, Zimmerman AR, Harris W (2011) Surface chemistry variations among a series of laboratory-produced biochars. Geoderma 163:247–255

  31. Mwinyihija M, Strachan NJC, Meharg A, Killham K (2005) Biosensor based toxicity dissection of tannery and associated environmental samples. J Am Leather Chem Assoc 100:381–490

  32. Mwinyihija M, Strachan NJC, Dawson J, Meharg A, Killham K (2006) An ecotoxicological approach to assessing the impact of tanning industry effluent on river health. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 50:316–324

  33. Park JH, Choppala GK, Bolan NS, Chung JW, Cuasavathi T (2011) Biochar reduces the bioavailability and phytotoxicity of heavy metals. Plant Soil 348:439–451

  34. Qian T, Wang Y, Fan T, Fang G, Zhou D (2016) A new insight into the immobilization mechanism of Zn on biochar: the role of anions dissolved from ash. Sci Rep 6:33630.

  35. Reemste T, Jekel M (1997) Dissolved organics in tannery wastewaters and their alteration by a combined anaerobic and aerobic treatment. Water Res 31:1035–1046

  36. Richards LA (1954) Diagnosis and improvement of saline and alkali soils, U. S. Department of Agriculture Handbook, vol. 60. Washington DC, USA, p 160

  37. Salam A, Bashir S, Khan I, Rizwan MS, Chhajro MA, Feng X, Zhu J, Hu H (2018) Biochars immobilize lead and copper in naturally contaminated soil. Environ Eng Sci 35(12):1349–1360

  38. Sallam AS, Usman AR, Al-Makrami HA, Al-Wabel MI, Al-Omran A (2015) Environmental assessment of tannery wastes in relation to dumpsite soil: a case study from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Arab J Geosci 8(12):11019–11029

  39. Soil Survey Division Staff (1993) Soil survey manual United States Department of Agriculture. pp 63–65

  40. StatSoft (1995) Statistica for Windows (Computer program manual). StatSoft, 74104 Tulsa, OK

  41. Sun X, Yang L, Li Q, Zhao J, Li X, Wang X, Liu H (2014) Amino-functionalized magnetic cellulose nanocomposite as adsorbent for removal of Cr(VI): synthesis and adsorption studies. Chem Eng J 241:175–183

  42. Tomczyk A, Boguta P, Sokołowska Z (2019) Biochar efficiency in copper removal from haplic soils. Int J Environ Sci Technol.

  43. Uchimiya M, Lima IM, Klasson KT, Wartelle LH (2010) Contaminant immobilization and release by biochar soil amendment: roles of natural organic matter. Chemosphere 80:935–940

  44. Uchimiya M, Wartelle LH, Klasson KT, Fortier CA, Lima IM (2011) Influence of pyrolysis temperature on biochar property and function as a heavy metal sorbent in soil. J Agric Food Chem 59(6):2501–2510

  45. USEPA (1994) Method 3051, microwave assisted acid digestion of sediments, sludges, soils and oils. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC

  46. Usman AR, Kuzyakov Y, Lorenz K, Stahr K (2006) Remediation of a soil contaminated with heavy metals by immobilizing compounds. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 169(2):205–212

  47. Usman RA, Abduljabbar A, Vithanage M, Ok YS, Ahmad M, Ahmad M, Elfaki J, Abdulazeem SS, Al-Wabel MI (2015) Biochar production from date palm waste: charring temperature induced changes in composition and surface chemistry. J Anal Appl Pyrolysis 115:392–400

  48. Usman ARA, Al-Wabel MI, Abdulaziz AH, Mahmoud WA, El-Naggar AH, Ahmad M, Abdulrasoul AO (2016) Conocarpus biochar induces changes in soil nutrient availability and tomato growth under saline irrigation. Pedosphere 26(1):27–38

  49. Walkley A, Black IA (1934) An examination of Degtjareff method for determining soil organic matter and a proposed modification of the chromic acid titration method. Soil Sci 37:29–37

  50. Wang H, Xia W, Lu P (2017) Study on adsorption characteristics of biochar on heavy metals in soil. Korean J Chem Eng 34(6):1867–1873

  51. Wei J, Tu C, Yuan GD, Bi DX, Wang HL, Zhang LJ, Theng BKG (2018) Pyrolysis temperature-dependent changes in the characteristics of biochar-borne dissolved organic matter and its copper binding properties. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 103:169–174.

  52. Woldetsadik D, Drechsel P, Keraita B, Marschner B, Itanna F, Gebrekidan H (2016) Effects of biochar and alkaline amendments on cadmium immobilization, selected nutrient and cadmium concentrations of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) in two contrasting soils. SpringerPlus 5(1):397

  53. Zhang X, Wang H, He L, Lu K, Sarmah A, Li J, Bolan NS, Pei J, Huang H (2013) Using biochar for remediation of soils contaminated with heavy metals and organic pollutants. Environ Sci Pollut Res 20:8472–8483

  54. Zhang J, Liu J, Liu R (2015) Effects of pyrolysis temperature and heating time on biochar obtained from the pyrolysis of straw and lignosulfonate. Bioresour Technol 176:288–291

  55. Zornoza R, Moreno-Barriga F, Acosta JA, Muñoz MA, Faz A (2016) Stability, nutrient availability and hydrophobicity of biochars derived from manure, crop residues, and municipal solid waste for their use as soil amendments. Chemosphere 144:122–130

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Muhammad Imran Rafique.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Responsible editor: Yong Sik Ok

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Rafique, M.I., Usman, A.R.A., Ahmad, M. et al. In situ immobilization of Cr and its availability to maize plants in tannery waste–contaminated soil: effects of biochar feedstock and pyrolysis temperature. J Soils Sediments 20, 330–339 (2020) doi:10.1007/s11368-019-02399-z

Download citation


  • Biochar
  • Contaminated sites rehabilitation
  • Metal stabilization
  • Mobility
  • Leachates