Addition of biochar to a sandy desert soil: Effect on crop growth,water retention and selected properties

Khaled D. Alotaibi, Jeff J. Schoenau

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Agricultural and environmental applications of biochar (BC) to soils have received increasing attention as a possible means of improving productivity and sustainability. Most previous studies have focused on tropical soils and more recently temperate soils. However, benefits of BC addition to desert soils where many productivity constraints exist, especially water limitations, have not been widely explored. Thus, three experiments were designed using a desert soil from Saudi Arabia to address three objectives: (1) to evaluate the effect of BCs produced from date palm residues added at 8 t ha..1 on wheat growth, (2) to determine the effect of BC addition and BC aging in soil on water retention, and (3) to reveal the effect of BC on selected soil physical (bulk density, BD; total porosity; TP) and chemical (pH; electrical conductivity, EC; organic matter, OM; cation exchange capacity, CEC) properties. The feedstock (FS) of date palm residues were pyrolyzed at 300, 400, 500, and 600 ffiC, referred to here as BC300, BC400, BC500, and BC600, respectively. The BC products produced at low temperatures were the most effective in promoting wheat growth when applied with the NPK fertilizer and in enhancing soil water retention, particularly with aging in soil, whereas high -temperature BCs better improved the selected soil physical properties. The low-temperature BCs increased the yield approximately by 19% and improved water retention by 46% when averaged across the incubation period. Higher water retention observed with low-temperature BCs can be related to an increased amount of oxygen-containing functional groups in the low-temperature BCs, rendering BC surfaces less hydrophobic. Only the BC300 treatment showed a consistent positive impact on pH, OM, and CEC. Pyrolysis temperature of date palm residue along with aging are key factors in determining the potential benefit of BC derived from date palm residues added to sandy desert soil.

Original languageEnglish
Article number327
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2019


  • Biochar
  • Crop growth
  • Desert soil
  • Nutrient
  • Soil chemical properties
  • Soil physical properties
  • Water retention


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