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The Influence Of Texture, Structure And Clay Mineralogy On The Soil Moisture Characteristic

J Williams, RE Prebble, WT Williams, CT Hignett

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The relative importance of texture, structure, organic matter and clay mineralogy to the nature of the soil moisture characteristic is examined for an extensive group of Australian soils using numerical classification and diagnostic methods. The presence of pedality, particle size composition and grade of structure were the soil properties most consistently associated with differences between the groups of soils with similar moisture characteristics. By association, field texture was shown to be a useful property. Although the presence of pedality and grade of structure were important, the shape and size of ped had only weak associations with differences in the soil moisture retention. Montmorillonite, iron oxide, vermiculite and quartz were the minerals in the clay size fraction which appeared to be important if they were present. In contrast, the presence of illite did not show any strong associations with a particular position or form of the moisture characteristic. The soil moisture characteristic was successfully modelled as a power function. It appears that being able to group and classify the soil moisture characteristic and then to provide a description of these groups both in terms of soil properties and model parameters is a valuable means of developing simple predictive models for field soils. The error of our predictions for 44 horizons based on this simple approach appears to be only marginally larger than that encountered in conventional laboratory methods, and in view of soil heterogeneity it is argued that following further development these predictions may be adequate in many hydrological and agricultural applications.