Compost and calcium surface treatment effects on subsoil chemistry in acidic minespoil columns

Frank J. Von Willert, Richard C. Stehouwer

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14 Scopus citations


Surface incorporation of a liming agent in combination with compost or biosolids is a proven way to revegetate acidic minespoils, but little is known about the effect of the surface amendments on subsoil chemistry. We conducted a greenhouse column experiment to investigate how different surface amendments affected plant growth and subsoil chemistry in highly acidic minespoil material. Columns were filled with shale minespoil material (pH ≈ 2.5), amended with CaCO3, CaSO4·2H2O (gypsum), and two rates of compost, and seeded with birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.) and 'Kentucky 31' tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.). We measured leachate and plant growth over a 170-d period with extensive irrigation. Without CaCO3, plants could only grow at the high compost rate (68.8 g kg-1), even though the soil pH in those treatments was below 3.5, indicating the capability of natural organic matter to detoxify Al3+ by forming Al-organic matter complexes. Compost had no effect on the subsoil. When CaCO3 or gypsum was added to the surface, extractable Ca increased in the subsoil, but there was no relevant increase in subsoil pH. Even in the first 5 cm of subsoil material, extractable Al did not decrease very much, possibly because a jurbanite-like solid phase controlled subsoil Al3+ activities. During the reclamation of highly acidic minespoil material one should therefore not expect significant effects of the surface treatment on the untreated subsoil. A sufficient root zone would have to be achieved by incorporating the liming agent down to the desired rooting depth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)781-788
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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