The University of Arizona

Plant responses to gypsum amendment of sodic bentonite mine spoil.

G.E. Schuman, E.J. Depuit, K.M. Roadifer

Abstract


Abandoned bentonite mine spoils are extremely difficult to revegetate because of their high clay content, salinity, sodicity, low permeability, and the semiarid climate of the area where bentonite mining occurs. Recent research has led to the development of technology utilizing sawmill wastes (chips, bark, and sawdust) to enable the successful revegetation of these lands. The use of wood residue amendments increased water infiltration, leaching of soluble salts, and vegetation establishment; however, sodicity continued to be a problem and threatened to destroy the established vegetation. Surface application of gypsum was evaluated to determine its effectiveness in ameliorating the spoil sodicity and its effect on plant growth. In a 3-year field study, surficial gypsum amendment resulted in significant increases in perennial grass biomass (150%) and canopy cover (140%). These changes were not evident until the second or third year after gypsum amendment. Annual forb biomass did not respond to gypsum amendment; however, canopy cover did exhibit a significant increase in the second year at lower wood residue amendment rates. This research demonstrates that surface applied gypsum can be effective in ameliorating bentonite spoil sodicity when applied to established plant communities.

Keywords


wood residues;spoil heap soils;sodic soils;mine spoil;bentonite;soil amendments;gypsum;grassland improvement;ground cover;reclamation;perennials;Wyoming;grasses

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