Articles | Volume 5, issue 2
Research article
17 Jul 2014
Research article |  | 17 Jul 2014

Furfural and its biochar improve the general properties of a saline soil

Y. Wu, G. Xu, and H. B. Shao

Abstract. Organic materials (e.g., furfural residue) are generally believed to improve the physical and chemical properties of saline soils with low fertility. Recently, biochar has been received more attention as a possible measure to improve the carbon balance and improve soil quality in some degraded soils. However, little is known about their different amelioration of a sandy saline soil. In this study, 56 d incubation experiment was conducted to evaluate the influence of furfural and its biochar on the properties of saline soil. The results showed that both furfural and biochar greatly reduced pH, increased soil organic carbon (SOC) content and cation exchange capacity (CEC), and enhanced the available phosphorus (P) in the soil. Furfural is more efficient than biochar in reducing pH: 5% furfural lowered the soil pH by 0.5–0.8 (soil pH: 8.3–8.6), while 5% biochar decreased by 0.25–0.4 due to the loss of acidity in pyrolysis process. With respect to available P, furfural addition at a rate of 5% increased available P content by 4–6 times in comparison to 2–5 times with biochar application. In reducing soil exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP), biochar is slightly superior to furfural because soil ESP reduced by 51% and 43% with 5% furfural and 5% biochar at the end of incubation. In addition, no significant differences were observed between furfural and biochar about their capacity to retain N, P in leaching solution and to increase CEC in soil. These facts may be caused by the relatively short incubation time. In general, furfural and biochar exhibited a different effect depending on the property: furfural was more effective in decreasing pH and increasing available P, whereas biochar played a more important role in increasing SOC and reducing ESP of saline soil.