The significance of the threshold and turbidity concentrations in relation to sodicity and microstructure

James Quirk

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    Quirk and Schofield (1955) in their paper on the effect of electrolyte concentration on soil permeability in relation to sodicity designated 2 concentrations: the threshold concentration, which related to the first discernible effect on soil structure; and the turbidity concentration, at which the dismantling of the soil microstructure is indicated by the appearance of dispersed particles in the percolate-this occurs when the electrolyte concentration is about one-quarter of the threshold concentration.This behaviour is explained in terms of clay domains, which are assemblages of many clay particles in parallel alignment. Within a clay domain, slit-shaped pores with surface separations about equal to the thickness of clay crystals exist. When calcium is the dominant exchangeable ion the clay domains are stable because where contiguous crystals overlap the surfaces reside in a potential well as a result of strong attractive forces. These attractive forces are similar to those responsible for the stability of Ca-montmorillonite and Ca-vermiculite crystals.A model of 3 clay crystals is used to illustrate how crystal interaction within a clay domain, in terms of classical repulsive diffuse double-layer forces and modern attractive forces, affect domain stability. Attention is drawn to a misconception, now prevalent in the literature, which does not recognise the basic significance of the turbidity concentration with respect to microstructure and wrongly contends that the concentration of electrolyte required to effect the dispersion to flocculation transition in soil suspensions can be used for predicting the level of electrolyte required to sustain soil permeability or infiltration rate in irrigation practice. It is shown that the flocculation concentration is almost 8 times the turbidity concentration.The application of the threshold concentration concept in irrigation practice is discussed. It is demonstrated that the threshold and turbidity concentration comfortably explain the behaviour of a heavy clay soil subjected to border-check irrigation and Cajon sandy loam in Arizona.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)118501217
    JournalAustralian Journal of Soil Research
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


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