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FIELD TEXTURES AND PHYSICAL COMPOSITION
DETERMINED BY TWO METHODS OF MECHANICAL
CHAS. F. SHAW
(University of California, R"·keley, California, U.S.A.)
The textures of soils are u5ually designated by conventional or
colloquial names, such as sandy loam, loam, clay loam, clay, adobe
clay, and .the like, that have been established by general usage.
Definite standards for these textural grades were established by
\:Vhitney (7, 8) as a result of the correlation between the textural names
and the laboratory analyses of several thousand samples sent in by
Lhe ficlt.l men. \\Then the mean composition of each texture had been
established, the mechanical analyses were thereafter used to check
dc\·iations and to hold men working in the various parts of the country
to relatively close standards of textural designations.
At rhc University of California the analytical '''ark necessary for
g-uidance in the textural naming of soils has followed two methods.
The first of these, used from 1913 to Hl30, followed the centrifuge
method originally de\·eloped by the Bureau 'Of Soils (2, 3). Ammonia
was used as the dispersing agent, tht soils being shaken for 12 to lR
hours, then bv decantation from the shaker bottles the silts and days
were from the sands. The clays were separated from the
silts by repeated decanting after accelerated sedimentation in a centri-
fuge. The upper limit of " clay " as determined by this ammonia-
centrifuge method was fh·c microns, and " silt " was fifty microns, the
separations being chccl.:cd by microscopic measurements of sus-
The second method, which has been used for selected analyses si11cc
Hl30, is a mmlilication of the International met!1od (G). The soils arc
prctrcntl'd with hydrof,'"en pcroxidc and hydrochloric acid, shaken with
sodium oxalate as a dispersant, washed through a 300 mesh sieve to
separate the sands, and the !iilt and clays determined by pipette
The \'icld of clavs b\· the modilicd-lntcrnational method was much
higher th.an by the 3mn;onia-et·ntrifuge method, and the former could
not be used in checking the textural name!' as established by the field
men. From time to time thr rcsuhs of analvsl:!s by the two methods
\vere compared, but there did not !'cem to be ·a difference in
the ,•iclds of the finer fractions .
. In order to dctcrmine the differences in results, and to settle ques-
tions regarding the consistence with which textural grades 1v·ere being
usetl, sixty-four samples of surface soils from the Lodi and Napa soil
survey areas (unpublished), which had been suveyed by the same two
men, worldng together, were analyzed by both methods. ln order to
, make the comparisons direct, the upper limit of the silt fraction was
hdd at GO microns anrl of the clay at 5 microns in the modified-Inter-
national ns "·ell as in the methods. ·
The results of the analyses were plotted on the triangular diagram
of Davis and Bennett (1). Ten of the soils had been classed by the
field men .as .sandy Joams, 14 as learns, 27 as clay learns, and 14 as
clays. Tht! ammon in-centrifuge analyses showed that all of the sandy
loams had a physical composition that classed them properly in that
tc:..:turnl grade as established by the Bureau of Chemistry and Soils.
FIG. !.-Differences in physical composition indicated by two methods or
mechanical analysis. 1'he butt of the arrow indicates the composition as
determined by the ammonia-centrifuge method, while the poinl shows the
composition of the same soil when analyzed by the modified-lnternationa.l
In-Analyses of 10 soils call!!d sandy loams.
lb-Analvses of 14 soils called loams.
lc-AnalYses of 2i soils called clay learns.
Id-Analyses of 14 soils called days.
le-Average analyses of each of the lour textural grades.
If-The triangular diagram shov.-ing the composition area
assigned to each
Of the learns, however, only 6 were properly named learns and all of
these were very heavy textured, lying close to the day loams, Two of
Joams " fell within the sandy clay loam textures, 5 in the clay
Joams, and 1 was a light day. Of the 27 clay learns, 14 analyzed as
clay loam, 1 as n loam, 3 as sandy clay learns, 2 as silty clay loams, I
as a silty clay, and li as light clays. Of the 14- clays, 13 analyzed as
clays and 1 as a silty clay. From these studies it became apparent that
from the standpoint of mechanical analysis the field men were inclined
to name the soils of intermediate textures in one grade too coarse., light
clay learns being judged as learns and light clays as clay learns. None
of the so-ca1led
clay learns," however, fell far outside the clay loam
portion of the triangular diagram, whereas several of the " learns "
were well away from the loam section. The clays and sandy learns
were consistently named. This " drift " in the judgment of textures
appears to be due to a tendency to make the determination compara-
tive. When working in a region of dominantly heavy soils, the sandier
soils are often named in a textural grade that is too light or coarse,
whereas in a region of dominantly sandy sqBs, many soils of finer r x ~
ture arc often designated by a grade heavier or finer than their
composition would warrant.
The marked difference jn yield of the fines, the silt and clay, due
to different methods of analysis is shown by the arrows jn the triangular
diagrams in Fig. 1, and the average change is shown in Fig. Je and
in Table 1. Under the more severe treatment of the modified-Inter-
Average composiliqn of texlur;LJ grades by the ammonia-centrifuge and the modified·
International methods or anPlys!s,
Sands Silts Clays
n2·!i4 22·8u H·sa
fi2·2ii 28·35 ] 9·59
4H9 33·89 21-53
34·39 36·93 28·8!1
:14·77 38·15 27-32
:!2·27 38·72 39-12
20·8(i 3HU 45·01
1 2· 17 25·83 61 ·82
8·69 - 7·63 + 16·81
national method the sandy learns lost an average of over 10 per cent.
of the sands (as shown by the ammonia-centrifuge method), this
material being nearly evenly distributed between the silt and clay.
The loams likewise show an average loss over I 0 per cent. of the
sands, but most of this material was shifted to the clay fraction, only
about one-third becoming silt. The 27 clay learns show an average
decrease of 12·'5 per cent. of sands, a very small amount being- added
to the silt fraction and practically all going into the clay. The clay
soils lost 8·7 per cent. of their sands, and 7·6 per cent. of silt, all of
the material falling into the clay fraction. This shift of textures from
the sandy learns to the clays is shown by the open arrows on the
triangular diagrams and in Fig. Ie, and emphasizes the difficulty that
will probably be encountered in any endeavor to intercept the field
texture by using the International method of mechanical analysis.
Field texture expresses not the actual or ultimate texture of the
soil, but ratl1er a combination of texture and of the structure or degree.
of aggregation. The International method in its fundamental purpose
aims to break down all structural aggregates and to resolve the soil
into its individual particles. Since the structure of the soil depends
to a considerable extent upon its chemical composition and on its
changeable base status, the field texture cannot be expected to be ·
directly reflected by the ultimate texture. Methods of mechanical
analysis that are not sufficiently drastic to break down all of the aggre-
gates but which resolve only the less stable aggregates Into their
ultimate particles will give a better measure of the mechanical com-
position of the field grades. It is very doubtful if mechanical analysis
by the International method will permit an interpretation of textural
grades on the basis of a triangular diagram or even in a three-dimen-
The drift of the analyses, as shown in the diagrams in Fig. 1
would also indicate the grave difficulty in endeavouring to adjust
mechanical analysis by the International method with the standards
established by the ammonia-centrifuge method. Prescott (4) and
Tommerup (6) have each endeavored to develop such adjustments.
Apparently they have assumed that the yield of clay under the methods
in use by the Bureau of Soils prior to 1925 was comparable to the
yield of clay by the International method and that therefore a com-
parison could be made between soils analyzed by the different methods.
The marked difference in dispersion due to the use of ammonia in one
method and the usc of a sodium compound following severe pretreat-
ment in the other makes such conversions of results thoroughly unsatis-
factory. If a standardization of field texture is to be accomplished by
means of the International method, it can only be done by accumulating
several thousand analyses of soils whose textural grade has been
mined in tl1e field by men worlting in close co-operation and who have
maintained consistent standards for their grade separations. In view
of the tendency to drift toward.s lighter or heavier designations, as
shown by the two men working in California, both of whom had years
of experience in the field, consistence in textural designations can only
be maintained by frequently checking textural judgment by comparing
field samplc>fi with soils that have been selected as textural standards
or by means of mechanical analyses that follow the meth9d of disper-
sion by usc of ammonia without pre1reatment, by which the first·
textural standardizations were established.
Dt\\-'IS, R. 0, E., and BENNETT, H. H., 1927. U.S. Dept, Agr,, Circ. 419.
L. J., Mt\RTJS, F. 0., nnd PEARCE, j. R., 1904. U.S. Depl. Agr.,
Bur, Soils, Rul. 24.
Ft.ErCHER, C. C., nnd BRYAN, H., 1912. U..S. Dept. Agr., But, Soih',
• PRF.SCOTT, J, A., TA\'LOR, J. K., and MARSHALL, T. ]., 1934· rlu
Sol, 1'rn11s. First Comm., Int. Soc, Soil Sci., pp. 14J-15S.
• OLMSTEAD, L. B., ALEJW\DER, L. T., and MIDDLETON, H. E., 1930. U.S.
Dept. Agr., Tech. Bul. 170. .
TOMMiiRUP, E. C., 1934· Pltylique du Sol, Tr1m.r. First Comm., Int. Soc.
Soil Sci., pp. t5o-158.
J WHI'rNEV, MILTON, tgo6, "The Soil Survey Field Book." U.S. Dept.
Agr., Bur. Soils.
• WHJTNF.Y, MILTON, tgn. U.S, Dept. Agr., Buro Soils, Bul. 78.
FLOTATION APPLIED TO THE STUDY OF SOIL
.. (£a.boratory _of Soil Chemistry-Chief A. N. Sokolovsky;· Khorkov)
..... --'-·-· -·--
Purpose of this investigation was to thid the metliods- .dif-
ferential study of soil colloids and to the ·contrOl:iof the pro-
cesses of interaction of soil colloids. It has been fOurld :that:
l. The behaviour of different fractions of soil 'colloids on the
dividing surface separating two liquids, of Which one is more polar
than the other, is not the same. Under corresponding conditions
organic colloids are easily wetted by less polar liquids, -wheri leaving a
hydrous medium. Mineral colloids are more easily wetted by more
polar liquids (in this case with water) and always in hydrous
2. At or near the neutral reaction the particles of humus soil are
not wetted by faintly polar liquids: During the process.· of acidifica-
tion, humus rapidly becomes hydrophobic, and below the limit of coagu-
lation, the humus entirely passes into non-hydrous phase. During the
process of acidification the double electrical layer is progressively
destroyed, which facilitates the wetting of the surface of humus particle
by faintly polar liquids. Wetting with non-polar ljquids and the re-
moval of humus from the hydrous medium may also be brought about
in neutrnl or alkaline conditions. To do this a third liquid be
added to a system of hydrous and non-hydrous phases i this third liquid
mixing in any proportions with either liquid composing the system
(such as ethyl alcohol, acetone, etc.). By replacing water in hydrated
film of micella, this liquid facilitates the wetting of the surface of a
humus particle with faintly polar liquid. Highly alkaline humus also
partly passes into the non-hydrous phase, even without applying an
auxiliary dehydrator. Hence it is obvious that humus is a typical
hydrophobic colloid. Most of the surface of the humus particle must
be of carbon-like properties.
3. The passing of humus into the non-hydrous phase owing to the
process of acidification can be brought about gradually. At the begin-
ning, at lower concentration of H ions, particles richer in carbon and
free of mineral admixture are isolated, they are followed by the fraction
richer in nitrogen and, as a rule, with considerable mineral admixture.
No connexion bet\\-'een the sequence of removal and the grade of dis-
pcrsitY of garticles was established.
4-. The addition of neutral electrolytes does not effect complete
separation of humus sol into the non-hydrous phase. As the
tion by neutral electrolytes causes a considerable decrease of hydrated
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