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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 69 No. 1, p. 120-135
    Received: May 18, 2004

    * Corresponding author(s): mikutta@landw.uni-halle.de



  1. R. Mikutta *,
  2. M. Kleber,
  3. K. Kaiser and
  4. R. Jahn
  1. Institut für Bodenkunde und Pflanzenernährung, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Weidenplan 14, D-06108 Halle, Germany


We compare the performance of three most accepted reagents for organic matter removal: hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) and disodium peroxodisulfate (Na2S2O8). Removal of organic matter from soil is mostly incomplete with the efficiency of removal depending on reaction conditions and sample properties. Generally, NaOCl and Na2S2O8 are more effective in organic C removal than H2O2 Alkaline conditions and additives favoring dispersion and/or desorption of organic matter, such as sodium pyrophosphate, seem to be crucial for C removal. Pyrophosphate and additives for pH control (bicarbonate) may irreversibly adsorb to mineral surfaces. In soils with a large proportion of organic matter bound to the mineral matrix, for example subsoils, or rich in clay-sized minerals (Fe oxides, poorly crystalline Fe and Al phases, expandable phyllosilicates), C removal can be little irrespective of the reagents used. Residual organic C seems to seems to represent largely refractory organic matter, and comprises mainly pyrogenic materials and aliphatic compounds. If protected by close association with minerals, other organic constituents such as low-molecular weight carboxylic acids, lignin-derived and N-containing compounds may escape chemical destruction. For determination of mineral phase properties, treatment with H2O2 should be avoided since it may promote organic-assisted dissolution of poorly crystalline minerals at low pH, disintegration of expandable clay minerals, and transformation of vermiculite into mica-like products due to NH4 + fixation. Sodium hypochlorite and Na2S2O8 are less harmful for minerals than H2O2 While the NaOCl procedure (pH 9.5) may dissolve Al hydroxides, alkaline conditions favor the precipitation of metals released upon destruction of organic matter. Prolonged heating to >40°C during any treatment may transform poorly crystalline minerals into more crystalline ones. Sodium hypochlorite can be used at 25°C, thus preventing heat-induced mineral alteration.

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