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Soil permeability as affected by different clay minerals and exchangeable ions. Comar, Vinod Kumar

Abstract

Two soil types, the Ladner silty clay loam and the Nicomekl loam, located in the Lower Fraser Valley, representing the modal profile characteristics were selected to study the permeability and the factors affecting it. Undisturbed core samples and fragmented samples were procured for laboratory characterization of the soils. Measurement of the soil permeability in the laboratory confirmed the field observations that the Nicomekl soil was more permeable than the Ladner soil. There was a good correlation in the soil permeability and the soil macroporosity as determined by tension table at 40 cm. water tension. The texture of the two soils, as determined by pipette method, was not sufficiently different to account for the permeability differences. The variations in the organic matter content, as determined by wet combustion method, seemed to have little effect on the permeability behaviour of these soils. The nature of exchangeable cations, as extracted by the ammonium acetate method and quantitatively determined by flame photometry and versenate titration, in the two soils, were found to be very different; the exchangeable cations, Na⁺, K⁺ and Mg⁺⁺, in the Ladner soil seemed responsible for the lower permeability in comparison with the Nicomekl soil which had very low percent base saturation and appeared to have mostly Al⁺⁺⁺ ions present in the exchange complex. The poorer physical conditions of the Ladner were also, perhaps, due to the differences in the exchangeable cations. The X-ray identification of clay minerals, using oriented "aggregate technique", monochromatic copper radiation and surface reflection method, revealed that the Ladner and Nicomekl soils were qualitatively similar in their clay content. Both soils contained montmorillonite, micaceous mineral, chlorite, feldspar and quartz; the presence of kaolinite and vertniculite could not be established. In an intricate mixture of clays as above, quantitative estimation of clay minerals was not performed; hence the effect of clay minerals on the permeability of the two soil types could not be evaluated. Permeability measurements on soil mixtures containing reference clay minerals, using air pressures in a water permeameter, revealed that Na-Bentonite even in small quantities rendered soil highly impermeable. The permeability of soil mixtures containing clays with exchangeable calcium improved with the application of Krilium while the clays with exchangeable sodium did not respond to similar treatment. The effect of Al⁺⁺⁺ ion and weak acids on the flocculation behaviour of Na-Bentonite suggested that the presence of both Al⁺⁺⁺ ions and weak acids promoted soil permeability. X-ray diffraction diagrams using unflitered cobalt radiation indicated that weak acids formed heat stable complexes with bentonite. The bentonite treated with aluminum chloride as well as phosphoric acid plus aluminum gave diffraction patterns indicating that increased c-spacing was due to the complexes formed with bentonite; the deposition of these complexes at the interlayer positions prevented the complete collapse of lattice at elevated temperatures.

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