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pH buffering capacity of acid soils from tropical and subtropical regions of China as influenced by incorporation of crop straw biochars

Abstract

Purpose

The key factors influencing pH buffering capacity of acid soils from tropical and subtropical regions, and effects of soil evolution and incorporation of biochars on pH buffering capacity were investigated to develop suitable methods to increase pH buffering capacity of acid soils.

Materials and methods

A total of 24 acid soils collected from southern China were used. The pH buffering capacity was determined using acid–base titration. The values of pH buffering capacity were obtained from the slope of titration curves of acid or alkali additions plotted against pH in the pH range 4.0–7.0. Two biochars were prepared from straws of peanut and canola using a low temperature pyrolysis method. After incubation of three acid soils, pH buffering capacity was then determined.

Results and discussion

pH buffering capacity had a range of 9.1–32.1 mmol kg–1 pH–1 for 18 acid soils from tropical and subtropical regions of China. The pH buffering capacity was highly correlated (R 2 = 0.707) with soil cation exchange capacity (CEC) measured with ammonium acetate method at pH 7.0 and decreased with soil evolution due to the decreased CEC. Incorporation of biochars at rates equivalent to 72 and 120 t ha−1 increased soil pH buffering capacity due to the CEC contained in the biochars. Incorporation of peanut straw char which itself contained more CEC and alkalinity induced more increase in soil CEC, and thus greater increase in pH buffering capacity compared with canola straw char. At 5% of peanut straw char added, soil CEC increased by 80.2%, 51.3%, and 82.8% for Ultisol from Liuzhou, Oxisol from Chengmai and Ultisol from Kunlun, respectively, and by 19.8%, 19.6%, and 32.8% with 5% of canola straw char added, respectively; and correspondingly for these soils, the pH buffering capacity increased by 73.6%, 92.0%, and 123.2% with peanut straw char added; and by 31.3%, 25.6%, and 52.3% with canola straw char added, respectively. Protonation/deprotonation of oxygen-containing functional groups of biochars was the main mechanism for the increase of pH buffering capacity of acid soils with the incorporation of biochars.

Conclusions

CEC was a key factor determining pH buffering capacity of acid soils from tropical and subtropical regions of China. Decreased CEC and content of 2:1-type clay minerals during evolution of tropical soils led to decreased pH buffering capacity. Incorporation of biochars generated from crop straws did not only ameliorate soil acidity, but also increased soil pH buffering capacity.

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Acknowledgments

The study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (40971135) and the Knowledge Innovation Program Foundation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX2-YW-438). The suggestions received from two anonymous reviewers during the review stage of this manuscript were greatly appreciated.

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Correspondence to Ren-kou Xu.

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Responsible editor: Caixian Tang

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Xu, Rk., Zhao, Az., Yuan, Jh. et al. pH buffering capacity of acid soils from tropical and subtropical regions of China as influenced by incorporation of crop straw biochars. J Soils Sediments 12, 494–502 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-012-0483-3

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Keywords

  • Acid soil
  • Biochar
  • CEC
  • pH buffering capacity
  • Tropical and subtropical regions