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Basic Concepts in Soil

Fertility
Jonathan Deenik
Assistant Specialist, Soil Fertility
Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences

Outline
Soil as a Nutrient Reservoir
Organic Matter
Soil Acidity
Liming
N and P
Soils of Hawaii

Soil Plant Relationships

Havlin et al., 2005. Soil Fertility and Fertilizers

Idealized Soil Composition

50% Solids

45%
Mineral

25% H2O
25% Air

5% Organic Matter

50% Pores

Clay is Where the Action is!


Clay Properties:
Microscopic size (<0.002 mm)
Extremely high surface area
- water retention
- chemical reactions
- biological activity
Clay surfaces carry charge (-/+)
Site of chemical weathering

Brady & Weil, 2004. Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils

In Hawaii Type of Clay is Critical


2:1 layer silicates

1:1 layer silicates

oxides

Clay Minerals
2:1 Clays (high activity)

Properties:
http://webmineral.com/specimens/picshow.php?id=1285

Montmorillonite (smectite)

Expanding
Permanent charge (-)
High CEC (80-120 cmolc kg-1)
High surface area
Sticky

Clay Minerals
Clays

Properties:
http://soil.gsfc.nasa.gov/forengeo/thnsec.htm

Kaolinite

Non-expanding
pH dependent charge
low CEC (1-10 cmolc kg-1)
Relatively low surface area
Non-sticky

Al and Clay Minerals


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Al Oxides (Gibbsite)

Source:http://www.icmab.es/multimetox/docs_lectures/lectures_html/Gale_J/img033.JPG

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z
z

Stable at low pH
Zero point of charge (pH = 5.9-6.7)
Al only dissolves under very acidic conditions

Clay Minerals
Al & Fe Oxides

Properties:
Non-expanding
pH dependent charge
Very little CEC
High anion retention
Non-sticky

Surface Charge
Permanent Charge
Isomorphic substitution
Net negative
2:1 clays

Brady & Weil, 2004. Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils

Surface Charge
pH-Dependent Charge
Net Negative or net positive
Charge determined by H+/OH Oxide-rich soils have + charge at low pH

Protonation

De-protonation

Weathering Intensity and Clay Type

Smectite

Kaolinite

Oxides

Fox et al., 1991

Organic Matter

http://www.sct.embrapa.br/diacampo/2004/releases.htm

Humus

Importance of Organic Matter in Soils


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Physical

Chemical

Improves aggregation (glue)


Improves water holding capacity (surface area)
Increases nutrient availability (N cycling, P and
micronutrient solubility)
Increases CEC (200 cmolc kg-1)
Buffers the soil against pH changes

Biological

Increases microbial diversity


N fixation (rhizobia), P availability (mychoriza)
Assists in pathogen suppression

Clays and OM Buffer Soil System


Buffering Capacity:
1. Resistance to change
2. The ability of the soil to re-supply
nutrients the soil solution
Total soil nutrient
(unavailable)

Solid phase nutrient


(adsorbed/absorbed)

Buffering capacity depends on:


clay content and type
CEC
organic matter

Plant uptake
Nutrient
in
solution

Soil Acidity
Natural Sources of Acidity: Human Induced Acidity:
z
z
z
z
z
z
z
z

Carbonic acid and


organic acids
Organic matter
Precipitation and cation
leaching
Nitrification
N Immobilization
Ammonium volatilization
Cation uptake
Deprotonation of pHdependent charge

z
z
z
z
z

Acid rain
Urea
Ammonium fertilizers
Mono and diammonium
phosphate
Elemental S

Soil Acidity
40 years of N application

Source: Schwab et al., 1990 SSSAJ

(NH2)2CO + 4O2

2NO3- + 2H+ + CO2 + H2O

Adverse Effects of Soil Acidity


z
z
z
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Aluminum toxicity
Manganese toxicity
Nutrient deficiencies
Decreased microbial
activity

Al precipitated as
Al(OH)3 down
to pH 4.5

Source: Hue et al., 1998

Source: Bohn et al., 2001

Aluminum Toxicity
z
z

At pH below 5.0 Al toxicity a problem


Ultisols most likely to have Al toxicity
under acid conditions
Soils acidified by pineapple production
may be problematic especially if Si
content is high (>20%)
Liming (CaCO3/CaSO4) and/or organic
matter inputs alleviate Al toxicity

Soils with Potential Mn Toxicity


z
z

Average MnO2 content of soils = 0.1%


Oxisols exisiting at low to moderate elevation
(200-750 ft) with moderate rainfall (20-60
in/yr)
Molokai, Lahaina, Wahiawa (1.5% MnO2) series

Kaolinitic Mollisols and Inceptisols in dry


environments
Keahua (0.4%), Ewa, Paia (1.7%), Hoolehua (1.5%),
kahana series

Manganese Toxicity
z

z
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Mn toxicity increases as pH drops below


5.5.
Reducing conditions (saturated soils)
increase Mn toxicity
Fresh organic inputs increase Mn toxicity
Manage Mn toxicity with lime, water
management, and careful attention to
organic inputs

Liming is Important
z

To raise pH
- Reduce existing/potential toxicities
- Increases P availability
- pH range 5.5 - 7.0
- Liming can be expensive because soils
are buffered (clay content and OM)
To supply Ca
- Highly weathered soils are almost always
deficient in Ca

Correcting Soil Acidity is Costly

Brady & Weil, 2004

Correcting Soil Acidity is Costly


Al3+ + H2O

Al(OH)2+ + H+

Liming Reactions:
CaCO3 + H2O

Ca2+ + HCO3- + OH-

OH- + H+

H2 O

HCO3- + H+

H2CO3

Al3+ + 3OH-

Al(OH)3

Liming

Tons CaCO3 per Acre

Uchida & Hue, 2000

Nitrogen

http://www.bettersoils.com.au/module2/images/27.gif

N Mineralization
z

Mineralization: Decomposition of soil organic matter by soil


microbes releasing inorganic N in the process.

Heterotrophs use organic molecules as source of energy

Bacteria neutral to alkaline environments


Fungi - both neutral and acidic environments

Release of N from the organic matter

Soil Organic Matter ~5% N


1 to 4% organic N mineralized each year
Added organic N sources
(C:N ratio < 20 = mineralization

Immobilization
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Immobilization
Conversion of mineral N to organic N by microbes

Organisms that decompose organic matter as an


energy source require nitrogen

Organic materials with a low N content (C:N > 30)


cannot supply the needs of these organisms thus they
use soil N in competition with the crop.

Freshly immobilized N = 5-15% of soil N

Ammonium N
Ammonium N = NH4+

Cation, therefore adsorbed on CEC


Won't leach or denitrify
Can be fixed in certain clay minerals micaceous clay
Plant uptake
Rapidly converted to NO3-N under most conditions
Volatilization at high pH
NH4+

OHHigh pH

NH3 + H2O
Gas

Nitrate N

Anion, therefore not adsorbed on CEC


Most common mineral form of N in most soils
Most common form taken up by plants
Very susceptible to leaching and denitrification
losses

2NO3-

N2O & N2

Anaerobic

gases

No oxygen - wet soil

Energy source for bacteria - organic matter

Warm temperatures

Favored by higher pH

3O2

Phosphorus

http://biology.kenyon.edu/courses/biol112/Biol112WebPage/Syllabus/Topics/Week%2013/PhosphorusCycle.jpg

P Fixation

Factors Affecting P Fixation


z

Soil type
Andisol>OxisolUltisol>Inceptisol>MollisolVertisol
Honokaa
Waimea
Kula

Kapaa
Wahiawa
Alaeloa

Makaweli
Waialua
Keahua
Lualualei

Soil pH
- acid soils P fixed by Al/Fe oxides
- alkaline soils P fixed by Ca
Decrease P fixation by liming and/or adding
OM

Soil Fertility Depends on:


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Clay content
Clay mineralogy
- 2:1
- 1:1
- Oxides

Organic Matter

Fertile Soils
Infertile Soils
z Slightly acid to
z Acid to strongly
neutral pH
acid pH
z High CEC
z Low CEC
z High organic matter z High P fixation
Vertisols - Lualualei
z Toxicities
Mollisols - Waialua
Medial Andisols Waimea

Oxisols - Kapaa
Ultisols - Haiku
Hydrus Andisols - Hilo

Weathering Intensity and Fertility

Smectite

Kaolinite

Oxides

Kauai
Category
Highly Weathered
Very Acid

Series

Classification

Kapaa
Halii
Makapili
Pooku
Lawai
Mahana
Puu Opae
Puhi
Kalapa
kunuweia
Hanamaulu
Lihue
Niu
Hihimanu

Very fine, sesquic, isohyperthermic, Anionic Acrudox


Fine, ferruginous, isothermic Anionic Acroperox
Very fine, sesquic, isohyperthermic, Anionic Acrudox
Very fine, ferrihydritic, isohyperthermic, Anionic Acrudox
Very fine, ferrihydritic, isohyperthermic, Typic Hapludox
Clayey, oxidic, isothermic, Typic Acrohumox
Fine, oxidic, isohyperthermic, Ustoxic Palehumult
Very fine, ferruginous, isohyperthermic, Humic Kandiustox
Very fine, kaolinitic, isohyperthermic, Typic Palehumult
Clayey-skeletal, ferritic, isothermic Typic Hapludox
Very-fine, ferruginous, isohyperthermic Humic Kandiudox
Very-fine, ferruginous, isohyperthermic Rhodic Eutrustox
Very fine, kaolinitic, isohyperthermic, Rhodic Eustrustox
Very fine, parasesquic, isohyperthermic, Oxic Dystrudepts

Makaweli
Pakala
Pohakupu
Koloa
kaloko
Kolokolo
Mokuleia
Mamala
Kekaha
Iao
Waikomo
Nonopahu
Hanalei
Kalihi
Nohili
Kaena
Lualualei
Waiawa

Fine, parasesquic, isohyperthermic, Torroxic Haplustolls


Fine loamy, parasesquic, isohyperthermic, Torroxic Haplustolls
Fine, parasesquic, isohyperthermic, Torroxic Haplustolls
Fine, mixed, isohyperthermic, Andic Haplustolls
Fine, smectitic, calcareous, isohyperthermic Cumulic Endoaquolls
Fine, mixed, isohyperthermic, Cumulic haplustolls
Clayey over sandy sandy skeletal, mixed isohyperthermic, Entic Haplustolls
Clay, parasesquic, isohyperthermic, Lithic Haplocambids
Very-fine, parasesquic, isohyperthermic, Typic Haplocambids
Fine, mixed, active, isohyperthermic Cumulic Haplustolls
Clayey, mixed, isohyperthermic, Lithic Haplustolls
Fine, mixed, isohyperthermic, Chromic Haplotorrerts
Very fine, mixed, isohyperthermic, Typic Endoaquepts
Fine, halloysitic, isohyperthermic, Fluvaquentic Endoaquolls
Very-fine, smectitic, isohyperthermic, Cumulic Haplaquolls
Very-fine, smectitic, isohyperthermic, Typic Natraquerts
Fine, smectitic, isohyperthermic, Typic Chromustert
Clayey smectitic, isohyperthermic, Lithic Vertic Ustropepts

Moderately Weathered
Slightly acid
Limited Weathering
Neutral to alkaline

Paia
Kahului
Lahaina

Kula
Hana
Kihei

Kaupo

Kalaupapa
Kaluakoi

Halawa

Hoolehua

Kaunakakai

Kamalu

Kona
Volcano
Pahoa

Summary
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Clay mineralogy important determinant


of fertility
Organic matter fundamental to nutrient
availability
Soil fertility in Hawaii closely tied to
weathering intensity

Resources
Books
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Havlin, J.L., S.L. Tisdale, J.D. Beaton, and W.L. Nelson. 2005.
Soil Fertility and Fertilizers. Pearson Education, Inc., Upper
Saddle River, NJ

Foth, H. D. and B.G. Ellis. 1997. Soil Fertility. CRC Press, Inc.,
Boca Raton FL.
Brady, N.C. and R.R. Weil. 2004. Elements of the Nature and
Properties of Soils. Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River,
NJ

Web
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http://www.extension.iastate.edu/pubs/so.htm
http://www.montana.edu/wwwpb/pubs/mt4449.html
Excellent short course in soil fertility