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Evaluating mechanism and inconsistencies in hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated soil using newly proposed biochar conductivity factor

Garg, Ankit, Zhu, Hong-Hu, Sarmah, Ajit K., Mei, Guoxiong and Gadi, Vinay Kumar 2023. Evaluating mechanism and inconsistencies in hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated soil using newly proposed biochar conductivity factor. Biochar 5 , 34. 10.1007/s42773-023-00233-x

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In the past few decades, numerous studies have been conducted to promote the use of biochar as a soil amendment and most recently, for compacted geo-engineered soils. In general, the definite trends of biochar effects on water retention and fertility of soils have been confirmed. However, the biochar effects on hydraulic conductivity, particularly unsaturated hydraulic conductivity of soil-biochar mix remain unclear, making it difficult to understand water seepage in both agricultural and geo-engineered infrastructures in semi-arid regions. This study examines the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity function derived based on the measurements of soil water characteristic curves of soil with biochar contents of 0%, 5% and 10%. A new parameter “biochar conductivity factor (BCF)” is proposed to evaluate the inconsistency in reported biochar effects on soil hydraulic conductivity and to interpret it from various mechanisms (inter- and intra- pore space filling, cracking, aggregation, bio-film formation and piping/internal erosion). The impact of biochar content on unsaturated hydraulic conductivity appears to reduce as the soil becomes drier with minimal effect in residual zone. Qualitative comparison of near-saturated hydraulic conductivity with test results in the literature showed that the BCF is generally higher for smaller ratio of sand to fine content (clay and silt). Moreover, the particle size of biochar may have significant influence on soil permeability. Future scope of research has been highlighted with respect to biochar production for its applications in agriculture and geo-environmental engineering. Long term effects such as root decay and growth, aggregation and nutrient supply need to be considered. Graphical Abstract:

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Engineering
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:, Type: open-access
Publisher: SpringerOpen
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 13 June 2023
Date of Acceptance: 24 May 2023
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2023 20:28

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