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Reconfiguration of macropore networks in a silty loam soil following biochar addition identified by X‐ray microtomography and network analyses

Yu, Xiuling, Lu, Shenggao
European journal of soil science 2019 v.70 no.3 pp. 591-603
Haplustalfs, air, bamboos, biochar, corn straw, macropores, micro-computed tomography, models, nutrient transport, paddy soils, porosity, rice straw, silt loam soils, topology
Biochars are widely applied to improve soil pore structures. However, the quantitative effects of biochars on soil macropore networks still remain unclear. In this study, the effects and possible mechanism of biochar application on soil macropore networks were investigated quantitatively by industrial X‐ray microtomography (CT), a pore network model and network analyses. Soil cores of 5 cm in diameter and 10 cm in height were collected from a paddy soil (Typic Haplustalf) without biochar application (CK), and amended with rice straw biochar (RSB), corn straw biochar (CSB) and bamboo biochar (BB) at a rate of 25 Mg ha⁻¹ (w/w). Results revealed that the total and connected macroporosity of the biochar‐amended soil was reduced significantly compared with CK, whereas the reverse was true for the isolated porosity. The three types of biochars exhibited different effects on macropores of the soil, depending on their size and shape. The pore network model and network analyses showed that the physical and topological structures of macropore networks in biochar‐amended soil were clearly reconfigured. The accessibility of these macropore networks was markedly reduced. Our results indicated that the incorporation of biochar did not necessarily increase the soil's macroporosity. The combination of pore network model and network analyses was effective for quantifying key properties of soil macropore networks affected by the incorporation of biochar. The changes in these properties may be used to evaluate the effects of biochar on water, air and nutrient transport. HIGHLIGHTS: Effect of biochars on the soil macropore structure was studied by industrial CT. Macropore network structure was quantified by a pore network model and network analyses. Biochar incorporation markedly changed the accessibility of the soil macropore network. The macropore network of soil can be reconfigured following biochar addition.