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A study of the organic fraction of some British Columbia soils Cook, Fred Delmer

Abstract

PART A. – Carbon content, carbon-nitrogen ratio and a proximate analysis were determined on the organic matter of some representative British Columbia and Alberta zonal soils. Comparing soil zones carbon content and hence percentage of organic matter was higher in the A₀ horizons of the Grey Wooded soils while that in the A₁ horizons is higher in the Shallow Black and Transitional soils. The carbon-nitrogen ratio was narrower in the grassland soils. Although proximate analysis did not show startling differences between zones, certain differences seem to be significant: (a) Higher "lignin" nitrogen complex and lipid content in Pacific Coast and Grey Wooded soils. (b) Percentages of "hemicellulose" and "cellulose" decrease in passing from the A₀ to the A₁ horizon. (c) "Lignin" and nitrogenous complexes concentrate in the A₁ horizons. PART B.- Nitrobenzene oxidation of soil organic matter from various sources yielded no characteristic oxidation products although excellent yields of vanillin and syringaldehyde were obtained from oxidation of spruce wood, fir wood and rye straw. It is suggested that the groups involved in the nitrobenzene oxidation reaction are destroyed during decomposition of plant materials, or that, some shortcomings in technique were responsible for the inability to isolate characteristic compounds. Hypoiodite oxidation of zonal soils and their lignin residues showed no consistant differences in the nature of the lignin. Oxidation by hypoiodite is questioned as a means of detecting differences in the constitution of the organic fraction of B.C. soils. PART C- Relative humus colour is shown to be higher in the Shallow Black and Transitional soils. This difference may be used as a criterion of soil type. Also the A₁ horizons of all soils examined show a higher humus colour value than the corresponding A₀ horizon.

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