Soil Research Soil Research Society
Soil, land care and environmental research

Water-retention, organic-C and soil texture

WW Emerson

Australian Journal of Soil Research 33(2) 241 - 251
Published: 1995


Samples taken from the two textural phases of the surface soil of an irrigated natrixeralf and its clay subsoil were dried at wilting point and in air. Water retention increased linearly with C content, with values extrapolated to zero C content proportional to clay content. Emerson et al. (1994) (Aust. J. Soil Res., 32, 939-51) had already shown that water held by the surface samples at 10 kPa suction increased approximately linearly with C content, independently of clay content. Similar linear relations were deduced for other soils using values of field capacity and wilting point reported in the literature. A constant amount of water is considered to be held by portions of the silt/clay matrix. As the C content of the soil is increased, polysaccharide gels gradually fill additional 1-3 µm wide pores within the portions. It was calculated that, after a long period in grass, gel present increases available water on a weight basis, by 34% and 125% in loamy sand and sandy clay A horizons respectively. Where farmyard manure (FYM) was incorporated, gel only formed from the added C. Nevertheless the large increase in field capacity of a sandy loam produced by rotavation was temporarily preserved by prior addition of FYM. It is suggested that the gel here was mainly on microbial filaments.

Keywords: Available Water; Water Retention; Organic-C; Farmyard Manure; Polysaccharides;

© CSIRO 1995

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