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Title: Effect of selected soil conditioners on soil properties, erosion, runoff, and rye growth in nonfertile acid soil

item Gonzalez, Javier

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/12/2011
Publication Date: 7/7/2012
Citation: Ritchey, K.D., Norton, L.D., Hass, A., Gonzalez, J.M., Snuffer, J.D. 2012. Effect of selected soil conditioners on soil properties, erosion, runoff, and rye growth in nonfertile acid soil. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 67:264-274.

Interpretive Summary: When sloping land is disturbed by construction, mining or timber harvest, the soil is subject to erosion, causing increases in sediment and water loads in downstream water resources which adversely impact the ecological balance. Surface application of soil conditioners reduces erosion, but little is known about how these products affect soils common to Appalachia. We evaluated several soil conditioners, including ammonium laureth sulfate (ALS) and polyacrylamide (PAM), which are synthetic molecules, and fluidized bed combustion residue (FBC) and gypsum (GYP), which are byproducts of emission controls of coal-fired electricity-generating power plants. The conditioners were surface-applied for four consecutive years to freshly disturbed sloping soils. In the fourth year, treatments were combined with surface application of rye (Secale cereale) and fertilizer. The application of PAM or ALS at the recommended rates had little or no effect on the chemical composition of runoff water, rate of soil erosion, or runoff volume. The application of FBC or FBC combined with PAM reduced runoff and sediment loss, particularly after the plots were treated and seeded with rye. The FBC ameliorated soil nutrient limitations and promoted plant growth which probably helped hold the soil in place and allowed more water to infiltrate into rather than run off the soil surface. This work shows the impact of the use of different soil amendments in managing water runoff, soil erosion, and plant establishment in recently disturbed Appalachian soil. This will benefit our society in developing best management practices to mitigate the adverse effects of disturbed lands on fresh water quality and aquatic life habitat.

Technical Abstract: Construction operations result in highly disturbed soil, vulnerable to erosion and excess runoff and sediment loads. Limited information exists about effects of erosion mitigation practices on soil and runoff properties in low fertility acidic sites. The current study evaluates the use of polyacrylamide (PAM), ammonium laureth sulfate (ALS), fluidized bed combustion residue (FBC), and coal-fired power plant gypsum byproduct (GYP) in mitigating erosion and runoff from an acidic dystrophic weathered Appalachian soil. Annual surface applications of each of the above materials and FBC+PAM were made for four years on an abandoned hillside in southern West Virginia. Sediment, runoff, soil and runoff composition, and plant biomass were monitored. No significant differences were found between control and ALS. The FBC-containing treatments greatly increased runoff concentrations of Ca and S and decreased Zn concentrations by a factor of 4 compared to control. Addition of 5 Mg ha-1 GYP had a greater effect, increasing runoff solution Ca and S as much as 30 times, but the effect decreased exponentially over a period of months. Increases in soil exchangeable Ca with GYP were much less than with FBC. Treatments containing FBC increased soil pH, plant nutritional status and biomass, and decreased runoff and sediment yield.