Estimating cation exchange capacity and clay content from agricultural soil testing data



Clay content and the ability to reversibly retain cations affect many essential chemical and physical properties of soil, such as pH buffering and carbon sequestration. Cation exchange capacity (CEC) and base saturation are also commonly used as criteria in soil classification. However, determination of CEC and particle-size distribution is laborious and not included in routine soil testing. In this study, pedotransfer functions including soil test cations (STCat; Ca2+ + Mg2+ + K+), pH and soil organic carbon (SOC, %) as explanatory variables were developed for estimating CEC, titratable acidity (TA; H+ + Al3+) and clay content (clay, %). In addition, reference values for potential CEC and its components were determined for Finnish mineral and organic soils. The mean of potential CEC extracted by 1 M ammonium acetate at pH 7.0 ranged from 14 (range 6.4−25) in coarse soils to 33 (21−45) cmol(+) kg-1 in heavy clay soils, and from 42 (24−82) in mull soils to 77 (25−138) cmol(+) kg-1 in peat soils. The average CEC of clay and SOC were 27 and 160 cmol(+) kg-1, respectively. Titratable acidity occupied 53% and around 40% of the CEC sites in organic and mineral soils, respectively, evidencing that it is a prominent component of the potential CEC in these predominantly acidic soils. STCat, pH and SOC explained 96% of the variation in potential CEC. STCat and pH can be used in estimating the clay content especially for soils containing over 30% clay. In coarse textured soils, in contrast, SOC hampers the STCat based estimation of clay content.


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How to Cite

Räty, M., Keskinen, R., Yli-Halla, M., Hyvönen, J., & Soinne, H. (2021). Estimating cation exchange capacity and clay content from agricultural soil testing data. Agricultural and Food Science, 30(4), 131–145.
Received 2021-09-03
Accepted 2021-12-22
Published 2021-12-31