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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Formation of Mica in Surface Horizons of Dryland Soils1


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 37 No. 3, p. 473-478
    Received: July 31, 1972
    Accepted: Jan 11, 1973

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  1. W. D. Nettleton,
  2. R. E. Nelson and
  3. K. W. Flach2



A mineral with a 10Å X-ray spacing is the dominant clay mineral in the surface horizon of many dryland soils in which vermiculite or vermiculite-biotite is dominant in subjacent horizons. The mineral occurs in soils with aridic, torric, xeric, and ustic moisture regimes. To study its genesis we separated weathered mica flakes from soils developed in granitic-textured rocks. The mineral has a refractive index of 1.64 to 1.65 and an exchange capacity of 24.7 to 44.0 meq/100 g. Its chemical composition shows that, except for its K content, it is as weathered as the vermiculite or vermiculite-biotite of subjacent horizons. It has fixed NH4+ (5.4 – 8.0 meq/100 g) as well as K+. Together K+ and NH4+ amount to more than half of its total charge. Most of its charge comes from the tetrahedral sheet, and its tetrahedral charge is less than that of weathered mica flakes in B and C horizons. Since the weathered mica flakes in these soils contain relatively large amounts of K, small additions of K+ or NH4+ released by plant decay will collapse the minerals to 10Å. The process reduces the loss of K+ through leaching and may supply important amounts of N in soils that contain little organic matter.

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