Biochar application for the remediation of salt-affected soils: Challenges and opportunities

Saifullah, Saad Dahlawi, Asif Naeem, Zed Rengel, Ravi Naidu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

163 Citations (Scopus)


Soil salinization and sodification are two commonly occurring major threats to soil productivity in arable croplands. Salt-affected soils are found in > 100 countries, and their distribution is extensive and widespread in arid and semi-arid regions of the world. In order to meet the challenges of global food security, it is imperative to bring barren salt-affected soils under cultivation. Various inorganic and organic amendments are used to reclaim the salt-affected lands. The selection of a sustainable ameliorant is largely determined by the site-specific geographical and soil physicochemical parameters. Recently, biochar (solid carbonaceous residue, produced under oxygen-free or oxygen-limited conditions at temperatures ranging from 300 to 1000 °C) has attracted considerable attention as a soil amendment. An emerging pool of knowledge shows that biochar addition is effective in improving physical, chemical and biological properties of salt-affected soils. However, some studies have also found an increase in soil salinity and sodicity with biochar application at high rates. Further, the high cost associated with production of biochar and high application rates remains a significant challenge to its widespread use in areas affected by salinity and sodicity. Moreover, there is relatively limited information on the long-term behavior of salt-affected soils subjected to biochar applications. The main objective of the present paper was to review, analyze and discuss the recent studies investigating a role of biochar in improving soil properties and plant growth in salt-affected soils. This review emphasizes that using biochar as an organic amendment for sustainable and profitable use of salt-affected soils would not be practicable as long as low-cost methods for the production of biochar are not devised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-335
Number of pages16
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


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