Soil structure and soil organic matter in water-stable aggregates under different application rates of biochar

Vladimir Simansky, Jan Horak, Martin Juriga, Dusan Srank


The effects of biochar and biochar combined with N-fertilizer on the content of soil organic matter in water-stable aggregates were investigated. A field experiment was conducted with different biochar application rates: B0 control (0 t ha-1), B10 (10 t ha-1) and B20 (20 t ha-1) and 0 (no N), 1st and 2nd levels of nitrogen fertilization on silt loam Haplic Luvisol (Dolna Malanta, Slovakia), in 2014. The N doses of level 1 were calculated on required average crop production using balance method. Level 2 included additional 100% of N in year 2014 and additional 50% of N in year 2016. The effects were investigated during the growing seasons of spring barley and spring wheat in 2014 and 2016, respectively. Results indicate that the B20N2 treatment significantly increased the proportion of water-stable macro-aggregates (WSAma) and reduced water-stable micro-aggregates (WSAmi). Aggregate stability increased only in the B20N1 treatment. The B20N2 treatment showed a robust decrease by 27% in the WSAma of 0.5-0.25 mm. On the other hand, an increase by 56% was observed in the content of WSAma with fractions 3-2 mm compared to the B0N0 treatment. The effect of N fertilizer on WSAma was confirmed only in the case of the B10N2 treatment. The proportion of WSAma with fractions 3-2 mm decreased by 42%, while the size fraction of 0.5-0.25 mm increased by 30% compared to the B10N0 treatment. The content of WSAma with fractions 1-0.5 mm decreased with time. On the contrary, the content of WSAma with particle sizes above 5 mm increased with time in all treatments except the B10N2 and B20N2 treatments. A statistically significant trend was identified in the proportion of WSA in the B10N2 and B20N2 treatments, which indicates that biochar with higher application levels of N fertilizer stabilizes the proportion of water-stable aggregates. In all treatments, the content of soil organic carbon (SOC) and labile carbon (CL) in WSAmi was lower than those in WSAma. A considerable decrease of SOC in the WSAma >5 mm and an increase of SOC in WSAmi were observed when biochar was applied at the rate of 10 t ha-1. Contents of SOC in WSAmi increased as a result of adding biochar combined with N fertilizer at first level. CL in WSA significantly increased in all size fractions of WSA.


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soil structure; soil organic carbon; labile carbon; aggregate stability; biochar; N fertilizer


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