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

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This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.

The fabric of soil derived from parna and the riddle of transported pellets

Stephen Cattle , Carol Smith


It is generally accepted that large areas of southern NSW and northern Victoria are mantled by soils derived from clayey loess deposits called parna. These parna deposits are believed to have formed during arid phases of the Pleistocene and the mineral constituents are assumed to have been transported as silt- and fine sand-sized pellets of calcareous clay, with some companion quartz grains of a similar size. A common property of parna-derived soils is subplasticity, where the apparent field texture grade becomes more clayey with increasing mechanical working of the bolus. This propensity for subplastic behaviour suggests that parna-derived soils contain stable silt- and fine sand-sized pellets of clay, yet there has been little direct micromorphological evidence of these pellets ever published. Here, thin section samples from a number of parna type-sites in southern NSW have been examined micromorphologically, to reveal the presence of very well size-sorted quartz grain populations (companion grains), and identifiable prolate clay aggregations of a similar silt to fine sand size. These prolate pellets, comprised of quartz, illite, kaolinite and chlorite, have a very distinctive mosaic-speckled b-fabric and are more widely distributed throughout the soil than the similarly sized and shaped faunal faecal pellets. Where these pelletal aggregations are not evident, such as in the deeper parna deposits, abundant illuviation features suggest that clay particles deposited within the parna, whether as pellets or coatings on grains, have subsequently undergone considerable weathering and a range of pedogenic processes.

SR16343  Accepted 05 September 2017

© CSIRO 2017