Soil-water retention behavior of compacted biochar-amended clay: A novel landfill final cover material

Tsz Fung James WONG, Zhongkui CHEN, Xunwen CHEN, Wang Wai Charles NG, Ming Hung WONG

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112 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Biochar has long been proposed for amending agricultural soils to increase soil-water retention capacity and therefore promotes crop growth. Recent studies revealed the potential use of biochar-amended soil in landfill final covers to promote methane oxidation and odor reduction. However, the effects of biochar application ratio, compaction water content (CWC), and degree of compaction (DOC) on soil-water retention characteristics of biochar-amended clay (BAC) at high soil suction (dry condition) are not well understood. The present study aims to overcome this knowledge gap. Materials and methods: Soil suction was induced using vapor equilibrium technique by a temperature- and humidity-controlled chamber, and the water desorption (drying) and adsorption (wetting) water retention curves (WRCs) of compacted pure kaolin clay and peanut shell BAC with different biochar application ratios (0, 5, and 20 %, w/w), DOCs (80, 90, and 100 %), and CWCs (30 and 35 %) were measured. The correlations between these factors and the gravimetric water content were analyzed by three-way ANOVA followed by the Tukey HSD test. The soil micro-structure was studied by scanning electronic microscope with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. Results and discussion: Measured WRCs of BAC suggest that the soil-water retention capacity at high suction range (48.49–124.56 MPa) was in general increased, upon biochar application. The BAC compacted with CWC of 35 % at low (80 %) and high (100 %) DOCs for the 5 % BAC were increased by 7.30 and 9.77 %, when compared with clay, while the increases of 20 % BAC were 39.89 and 59.20 %, respectively. This is attributed to the embedded effects of clay particles in biochar pores, which reduce the total pore space of BAC. The soil-water retention capacity of BAC was also increased with CWC and decreased with DOC. The results of three-way ANOVA analysis show that the effects of DOC and biochar ratio on soil gravimetric water content was significant (p < 0.05) only at 48.49 MPa on drying path. For other induced suctions, only effects of CWC were significant (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Biochar application increases soil-water retention capacity of the BAC at high soil suction (48.49–124.56 MPa) (dry condition) at both low (80 %) and high DOC (100 %). The soil-water retention capacity of 20 % BAC was much higher than that of 5 % BAC. BAC is a potential alternative landfill final cover soil with a higher soil-water retention capacity to be used in dry areas or regions with a long period of evaporation event. Copyright © 2016 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-598
JournalJournal of Soils and Sediments
Issue number3
Early online dateApr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


Wong, J. T. F., Chen, Z., Chen, X., Ng, C. W. W., & Wong, M. H. (2017). Soil-water retention behavior of compacted biochar-amended clay: A novel landfill final cover material. Journal of Soils and Sediments, 17(3), 590-598.


  • Biochar-amended clay
  • Compacted soil
  • Landfill final cover
  • Soil suction
  • Soil-water characteristic
  • Water retention capacity


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