The effect of humic acids extracted from coal waste and peat on the formation of water-stable aggregates in kaolinitic soils from the wheatbelt of Western Australia and a prepared kaolinite-quartz mix were assessed. This effect was compared with that produced by adding calcium to the soils. In the case of kaolinite-quartz mix, the treated samples were measured for micro-aggregation since macro-aggregates were not formed under the experimental conditions. The wheatbelt soils were already aggregated and the measurement was of the further macro-aggregation of these aggregates. In kaolinite-quartz, calcium additions alone enhanced the formation of stable micro-aggregates. This effect was amplified with additions of humic acids when up to 30% of the clay-sized particles were aggregated into larger aggregates. This humic acid effect was not observed in the sodium dominated mineral system.In contrast to the kaolinite-quartz samples, the selection of wheatbelt soils used in this study responded little to calcium additions alone. Humic acid increased the size of aggregates in the sodium-treated soils presumably due to the presence of aluminium in the system studied at pH 4.5. The aluminium ions can be expected to act as the bridging cations between the negatively charged clay-sized particles and the anionic groups present in the organic matter. The ineffectiveness of calcium in these soils allowed the positive effect of the humic acids to be expressed clearly. These findings provide another management option for improving the soil structure of salt-affected land because some of these soils are unlikely to respond to gypsum application.
Yamaguchi, T., Takei, T., Wong, M., Gilkes, R., & Swift, R. S. (2004). Effect of humic acid, sodium, and calcium additions on the formation of water-stable aggregates in Western Australian wheatbelt soils. Australian Journal of Soil Research, 42(4), 435-439. https://doi.org/10.1071/SR03053