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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Plastic limits of agricultural soils as functions of soil texture and organic matter content

Thomas Keller A B D and Anthony R. Dexter C

A Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station ART, Department of Natural Resources and Agriculture, Reckenholzstrasse 191, CH-8046 Zurich, Switzerland.

B Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Soil & Environment, Box 7014, SE-75007 Uppsala, Sweden.

C Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation (IUNG-PIB), ul. Czartoryskich 8, 24-100 Puławy, Poland. Email: tdexter2@iung.pulawy.pl

D Corresponding author. Emails: thomas.keller@art.admin.ch; thomas.keller@slu.se

Soil Research 50(1) 7-17 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/SR11174
Submitted: 20 July 2011  Accepted: 16 January 2012   Published: 20 February 2012

Abstract

The plastic limits (lower plastic limit, PL; and liquid limit, LL) are important soil properties that can yield information on soil mechanical behaviour. The objective of this paper is to study the plastic limits of agricultural soils as functions of soil texture and organic matter (OM) content. The plastic limits were highly related to the clay content. The LL was more strongly correlated with clay than was PL, but the reasons are unclear. Interestingly, PL was virtually unaffected by clay content for soils with clay contents below ~35%. The OM had a strong effect on the plastic limits. This effect was clearly demonstrated when analysing soils of similar texture with a range of OM. We present equations (pedotransfer functions) for estimation of PL, LL, and plasticity index (PI) from soil texture and OM. Finally, we predict that the clay content must be ≥10% for soils without OM to be plastic; however, soils with <10% clay can be plastic if OM is present. More research is needed to investigate OM effects on soil consistency.

Additional keywords: Atterberg consistency limits, clay, liquid limit, pedo-transfer function, plasticity index.


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