Coal fly ash as an acid-reducing soil amendment and its side-effects

Dennis L. McCallister, Kenneth D. Frank, W. Bart Stevens, Gary W. Hergert, Roger R. Renken, David B. Marx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Coal combustion by-products may offer significant benefits if used properly to neutralize soil acidity, but unintended release of trace components must be considered. A study was conducted with two objectives: (i) To compare the efficacy of two different preparations of fly ash with that of conventional ag lime for their ability to raise soil pH and reduce exchangeable Al; and (ii) to determine if the Al applied in fly ash produces detrimental changes in soil properties following subsequent acidification. Either fly ash in one of two forms, or conventional ag lime, was applied to three acid soils (Anselmo loam, Valentine sandy loam, and Holdrege sandy loam) in a pot study at rates equal to 0.5, 1.0, and 1.5 times the soils' lime requirements. Soils were equilibrated in triplicate at approximately 33 kPa water potential in the greenhouse for 315 days (liming phase), during which pH and exchangeable aluminum (Al) were measured. The soils were then acidified under similar conditions for 439 days (acidification phase) by adding dilute acid solution to simulate management-induced acidification, and pH and exchangeable Al were then measured again. Both fly ashes and ag lime were effective in raising soil pH by up to 1.2 units and in reducing exchangeable Al by up to 5.6 mg kg-1. Two-way interactions involving soil, liming material, and rate of application produced different results for combinations of these factors. All amendments helped the soils resist subsequent acidification compared with zero-rate treatments but differed based on the 3-way combinations of soil, liming material, and rate of application. We concluded that overliming (as indicated by exceeding the target pH of 6.5) is a problem with all liming materials on the coarsest soils, suggesting that lime calibration should be re-examined. The fly ash materials seem to contribute to soil exchangeable Al after acidification, but this contribution is inconsequential if soil pH values are maintained at agronomic optima.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)811-820
Number of pages10
JournalSoil Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002


  • Aluminum
  • Coal combustion by-product
  • Fly ash
  • PH
  • Toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science

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