Main content area

Aggregate stabilization in kaolinitic soils by low rates of anionic polyacrylamide

Miller, W.P., Willis, R.L., Levy, G.J.
Soil use and management 1998 v.14 no.2 pp. 101-105
kaolinite, clay soils, polyacrylamide, soil stabilization, soil amendments, particle size, soil horizons, anions, rain, soil texture, soil aggregates, molecular weight, sandy loam soils, adsorption, Georgia
The stability of aggregates can be improved by amending the soil with charged synthetic polymers. We have evaluated the effects (addition of low rates of anionic polyacrylamide (PAM) on the stability of aggregates from three predominately kaolinitic soils, and investigated whether the applied PAM penetrated into the aggregates or was adsorbed onto exterior surfaces only. Aggregates (6.3-9.5 mm) from the Ap horizons of a Cecil sandy loam and a Cecil loamy sand (Typic Kanhapludult) and from the Bt horizon of a Davidson clay (Rhodic Kandiudult) were treated with a high molecular weight (2 x 10(7) Da), negatively charged (20% hydrolysis) PAM at rates of 0, 10 or 20 kg/ha. The treated aggregates were dried and exposed to 20 mm of high kinetic energy (23.0 kJ/m3) simulated rain. Some of the PAM-treated Cecil loamy sand aggregates (5 or 10 kg/ha) were broken in half to expose untreated aggregate interiors to the rain. Percentage stable aggregates (weight/weight) in the PAM treatments ranged from 52 to 97%, vs. 20-32% in the control. PAM addition significantly increased the percentage of >4 mm sized aggregates compared with the untreated aggregates. PAM was more effective at stabilization in the light to medium textured Cecil soils than in the clayey Davidson. When internal surfaces of PAM treated aggregates were exposed, the percentage of stable aggregates exceeded the amount expected if the polymer was only adsorbed on to external surfaces. This suggested that some PAM had penetrated to some degree into aggregate interiors, thereby stabilizing both external and internal aggregates surfaces. Based on these results it is envisaged that use of PAM could be a viable alternative to the commonly used soil and water conservation practices (e.g. mulching, dyking, contour tillage).