U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Main content area

Impacts of fresh and aged biochars on plant available water and water use efficiency

Deborah Aller, Samuel Rathke, David Laird, Richard Cruse, Jerry Hatfield
Geoderma 2017 v.307 no. pp. 114-121
biochar, biomass, clay loam soils, corn, developmental stages, greenhouse experimentation, plant available water, rain, sandy loam soils, silt loam soils, soil density, soil water retention, texture, water stress, water use efficiency
The ability of soils to hold sufficient plant available water (PAW) between rainfall events is critical to crop productivity. Most studies indicate that biochar amendments decrease soil bulk density and increase soil water retention. However, limited knowledge exists regarding biochars ability to influence PAW and water use efficiency (WUE), and even less is known about the effects of aged biochars on PAW and WUE. This greenhouse study investigated the influence of six fresh and six aged biochars on PAW and WUE for three soils of contrasting texture. PAW and WUE were assessed by growing maize in repacked soil columns (1kg soil). Plant and water data were collected from the V1 growth stage until the plants died of water stress. Relative to the controls, both fresh and aged biochars increased soil moisture retention in the clay loam soil, had no impact in a silt loam soil, and had variable effects in a sandy loam soil. Final biomass weight increased with the addition of fresh biochar in the sandy loam and silt loam soils and decreased in the clay loam soil, while aged biochar increased biomass weight in the silt loam soil. Both fresh and aged biochars decreased PAW in the clay loam soil and had no impact on PAW in the silt loam soil. Fresh biochar increased PAW, while aged biochar had no effect on PAW for the sandy loam soil. WUE decreased in response to both fresh and aged biochars in the clay loam soil and was variable for the other two soils. Results of this experiment indicate that biochar type and biochar age have variable impacts on PAW and WUE, indicating that biochar amendments can improve soil water relations and crop growth under water limited conditions for some but not all soils.