Influence of Calcium Carbonate and Charcoal Applications on Organic Matter Storage in Silt-Sized Aggregates Formed during a Microcosm Experiment

Kaiser, Michael and Ghezzehei, Teamrat A. and Kleber, Markus and Myrold, David D. and Berhe, Asmeret Asefaw

Soil Science Society of America Journal, vol. 78(5), pp. 1624-1631 , 2014.


Silt-sized aggregates (2–53 μm) can store a high percentage of organic matter (OM) in agricultural soils. This study aimed to determine whether additions of charcoal and CaCO3 may enhance the retention of organic C (OC) and total N (Nt) in silt-sized aggregates. We used artificial soil mixtures without a silt component (89% sand, 10% clay, 1% OM) to emulate sandy soils with little natural structure. Charcoal and/or CaCO3 were added, and the resulting mixtures were incubated for 16 wk in the dark. The newly formed silt-sized fraction was separated and analyzed for OC and Nt concentrations and characterized using FTIR and scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS). Compared to the control treatment, CaCO3 addition had no positive effects on C and N retention in the silt-sized fraction (17–20 g kg−1 OC, 0.15–0.17 g kg−1 Nt) whereas the silt-sized fraction from treatments with charcoal additions showed significantly higher OC and Nt concentrations (50–56 g kg−1 OC, 0.31–0.85 g kg−1 Nt). Silt-sized fractions from the charcoal treatments also showed a significant increase in the proportion of C=O groups. These initial results justify more detailed investigations into the improvement of the structure and nutrient retention of sandy soils by charcoal and CaCO3 applications.