The influence of clay type on reduction of water repellency by applied clays: a review of some West Australian work

I. Mckissock, Evonne Walker, Robert Gilkes, D.J. Carter

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70 Citations (Scopus)


In western Australia water repellency mostly occurs in soils with sandy texture; the severity of water repellency is influenced by very small changes in clay content. Additions of 1-2% clay can prevent water repellency and for some time clay amendments have been used by farmers to overcome water repellency. Tne aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of clays in ameliorating water repellency.Clays were assessed for effectiveness in reducing water repellency by mixing with water repellent sands and measuring water drop penetration time (WDPT) on the resultant mixtures. WDPT was measured on the initial mixtures, a wetting and drying cycle was imposed and WDPT measured again. Two sets of clays were assessed: four simple clays containing kaolinite (2) or smectite (2) group minerals and a group of clayey subsoil materials which had been collected by farmers.For the simple clays, clay mineral type was the most significant factor in determining response. Kaolin was much more effective than smectite, imposition of a wetting and drying cycle greatly reduced water repellency. The dominant exchangeable cation of the clays (sodium or calcium) had little effect on the ability of the clays to reduce water repellency. The factor that was most predictive of the effectiveness of clayey subsoils materials in reducing water repellency was texture: clay content (r(2) = 0.18) or clay + silt content (r(2) = 0.23). These properties were more predictive of water repellency values after the wetting and drying cycle treatment (r(2) = 0.36, r(2) = 0.44). The proportion of the clay fraction that consisted of kaolinite was next most predictive in determining effectiveness which is again indicative of kaolin group minerals being more effective than smectite group minerals. The exchangeable sodium percentage and clay dispersibility had no systematic effect on the ability of these clays to reduce water repellency.These results provide a basis for developing a practical field procedure to enable farmers to recognise suitable clays for application to their water-repellent soils. An information kit for farmers is currently being developed which describes how to assess the suitability of clayey materials for treatment of water repellency. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-332
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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