Biochar increased water holding capacity but accelerated organic carbon leaching from a sloping farmland soil in China
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A hydrologically contained field study, to assess biochar (produced from mixed crop straws) influence upon soil hydraulic properties and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) leaching, was conducted on a loamy soil (entisol). The soil, noted for its low plant-available water and low soil organic matter, is the most important arable soil type in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River catchment, China. Pore size distribution characterization (by N2 adsorption, mercury intrusion, and water retention) showed that the biochar had a tri-modal pore size distribution. This included pores with diameters in the range of 0.1–10 μm that can retain plant-available water. Comparison of soil water retention curves between the control (0) and the biochar plots (16 t ha−1 on dry weight basis) demonstrated biochar amendment to increase soil water holding capacity. However, significant increases in DOC concentration of soil pore water in both the plough layer and the undisturbed subsoil layer were observed in the biochar-amended plots. An increased loss of DOC relative to the control was observed upon rainfall events. Measurements of excitation-emission matrix (EEM) fluorescence indicated the DOC increment originated primarily from the organic carbon pool in the soil that became more soluble following biochar incorporation.
KeywordsBiochar Soil Pore size distribution Water holding capacity DOC EEM fluorescence
Support for this work is provided by Nature Science Foundation of China (41301549, 21307152, and 41471268), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2013M530408), and CAS-SAFEA International Partnership Project (KZZD-EW-TZ-06). Thanks also goes to the Hundred Talents Program of CAS for supporting activities related to the data processing and preparation of this manuscript.
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