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    While the use of biochar as a soil amendment is gaining popularity for environmental and agricultural purposes, spatial heterogeneity of biochar (segregation) in biochar-amended media and its underlying causes have been overlooked. In this study, for the first time particle segregation in biochar-amended media and its impact on the media's saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat) were investigated. Two uniformly graded media were amended with different sizes of a wood-based biochar under dry and wet conditions. While the intended biochar volume fraction (bf) was 17.5%, in dry-packed columns biochar was often segregated and the measured bf ranged from 7.5 ± 0.8 SE% (SE = standard error) to 23.6 ± 1.8 SE% across all spatial locations. If, however, 20% water (volume of water/bulk volume of packed media) was added to the mixtures during mixing, homogeneous packings were achieved. In dry-packing, segregation was governed by the difference in the physical properties of the media and the biochar: particle size, density, and shape. In wet-packing, segregation was prevented due to the inter-particle adhesion forces associated with water. Although X-ray computed tomography images showed that the presence of segregation altered particle distributions and pore morphologies, the Ksat for wet-packed and dry-packed columns were statistically identical. The results of this study suggest that laboratory methods for packing biochar-amended media should include moisturizing the mixture to inhibit particle segregation. Mixing under wet conditions is recommended for any type of soil and biochar and for any scale of application, in both the laboratory and field. Copyright © 2020 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


    Seyyed Ali Akbar Nakhli, Sydney Goy, Kalehiwot Nega Manahiloh, Paul Thomas Imhoff. Spatial heterogeneity of biochar (segregation) in biochar-amended media: An overlooked phenomenon, and its impact on saturated hydraulic conductivity. Journal of environmental management. 2021 Feb 01;279:111588

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    PMID: 33218831

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