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Journal of the Indian Society of Soil Science, Vol. 55, No.

3, pp 248-253 (2007)
Received December 2005; Accepted July 2007

Profile Distribution of Different Forms of Boron in Typic


Haplustalfs of Punjab
SANJAY ARORA*1 AND D.S. CHAHAL
Department of Soils, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, Punjab, 141 004

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Abstract: Profile as well as surface samples were collected from Typic Haplustalfs (Gurdaspur series) of
Punjab for determination of different forms of boron. Surface soils were loam in texture with organic carbon
content varying from 0.30 to 1.02%. Water soluble B ranged from 0.14 to 0.28 mg kg-1; hot water soluble
boron from 0.20 to 0.72 mg kg-1; and leachable B from 0.26 to 0.84 mg kg-1. The total boron content in these
soils varied from 18.16 to 28.54 mg kg-1. Available boron content was positively and significantly correlated
with clay (r=0.656**), silt (r=0.462*) and CEC (r=0.592**) and was negatively correlated with sand content
(r=-0.585**). About 54% of the overall samples tested were low to medium in available boron.
Key words: Punjab soils, Typic Haplustalf, forms of boron

Boron (B) deficiency is widespread in highly leached,


coarse textured, calcareous and low organic matter
soils of India leading to low crop yields. Boron is
unique among the essential micronutrients as it is the
only element present in soil solution as a non-ionized
speci over the pH range suitable for the plant growth
(Arora and Chahal 2001). The range between the B
deficiency and toxicity being narrow, poses difficulty
to maintain appropriate boron levels in soil solution.
Boron is found in soils in various forms. However,
the contribution of various B fractions towards B
availability in soils has not been examined extensively
(Datta et al. 2002; Chaudhary and Shukla 2003).
The Typic Haplustalfs of Gurdaspur series
cover an area of nearly 84,000 ha in the north-eastern sector of Punjab state (Singh et al. 1995). These
soils occur on alluvial terraces in old flood plains of
N-E Punjab. Being highly productive, these soils are
extensively cultivated for rice and wheat and are being exhausted in nutrients at much faster rate. These
soils though fall under ustic moisture regime but
are adjoining to udic zone soils where rainfall is
higher than the ustic zone soils of Central Punjab.
These soils are deficient in many of the macro and
micronutrients. The present investigation was, there*

Corresponding author (Email : aroraspau@yahoo.co.in)


Present address
1
Division of Soil Science & Agricultural Chemistry, Sher-eKashmir University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology of
Jammu, FoA, Chatha, Jammu, 180 009

fore, undertaken to get information about different


forms of boron and its distribution pattern in profile
to assess its availability to crops of varying rooting
depths.
Materials and Methods
Two soil profiles were exposed from well demarcated areas representing Gurdaspur soil series
(Typic Haplustalf) at distinct places from cultivators
field following rice-wheat cropping system. Horizonwise soil samples were collected and in addition to
this 15 surface soil samples were also collected from
the adjacent sites representing the series. Soil samples
were air-dried, crushed and passed through a 2 mm
sieve. The samples were analysed for various physical and chemical properties. Soil pH and EC were
determined in 1:2.5 (w/v) soil:water suspension as
per the procedure described by Richards (1954). Organic carbon was determined following the procedure developed by Walkley and Black (1934) and
cation exchange capacity was estimated by using neutral normal sodium acetate according to the procedure described by Jackson (1973). Particle size distribution and free CaCO3 content was estimated following the procedure outlined by Piper (1966) and
Richards (1954), respectively.
Low B glassware and distilled deionized water
were used throughout this study. All the chemicals
used were of the analytical grade. Water soluble boron (WS-B) was extracted by shaking soil with deion-

2007]

DISTRIBUTION OF FORMS OF BORON

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ized water as outlined by Hatcher and Wilcox (1950).


Hot water soluble boron (HWS-B) was determined
by the method described by Wear (1965) by boiling
soil-water suspension followed by refluxing of the
contents for 5 minutes. The method of Rhoades et
al. (1970) was adopted for the extraction of leachable boron (adsorbed plus soluble B) by using 0.01 M
mannitol 0.01 M CaCl2 solution as extractant. For
total boron, soil was fused with sodium carbonate at
1000 oC and the residue was dissolved in 6 N HCl
according to the modified procedure developed by
Gupta (1966). Boron in the extracts was estimated
using azomethine-H reagent (John et al. 1975) through
Spectronic-20 spectrophotometer at 420 nm.
The simple correlation coefficients between relevant soil parameters and different forms of boron
were worked out as per the statistical methods outlined by Gomez and Gomez (1984).

Results and Discussion


Physical and Chemical Characteristics of Soils
Surface soils: Gurdaspur soil series occurs on
alluvial terraces in old flood plain of north-east Punjab.
The texture of surface soil is loam to silt loam. The
range and mean values of per cent sand, silt, clay,
organic carbon, free CaCO3, pH, EC and CEC of
surface soils are reported in table 1. Soil pH varies
from 7.65 to 8.22, while electrical conductivity
ranges between 0.18 and 0.34 dS m-1. The organic
carbon and free CaCO3 content of surface soils varies from 3.0 to 10.2 and nil to 7.5 g kg-1, respectively
(Table 1). Cation exchange capacity varies from 5.98
to 12.0 cmol(p+)kg-1. The soils are non-saline and
non-calcareous in nature.
Profile soils: The soil characteristics among different horizon samples of profiles are presented in
table 1. Sand, silt and clay content of profile samples
varied from 26.6 to 44.2, 45.4 to 55.3 and 11.7 to
17.6%, respectively. Organic carbon content varied
widely from 1.2 to 6.4 g kg-1 and it decreased with
depth of the profile. The pH ranged from 7.84 to
8.50 and the electrical conductivity varied from 0.05
to 0.22 dS m-1. Cation exchange capacity varied from
5.98 to 12.9 cmol(p+)kg-1.
Forms of B in surface soils
Water Soluble Boron: The content of water
soluble boron ranged from 0.14 to 0.28 mg kg-1 soil
with a mean value of 0.21 mg kg-1 (Table 2). The
median value of 0.20 mg B kg-1 was close to mean

249

Table 1. Range and mean values of characteristics of surface


and profile soil samples
Parameter

Surface soil
Profile soil
samples
samples
Range
Mean
Range

pH (1:2.5)
Electrical conductivity (dS m-1)
Organic carbon (g kg-1)
Sand (%)
Silt (%)
Clay (%)
CaCO3 (g kg-1)
CEC [cmol(p+)kg-1]

7.65-8.22
0.18-0.34
3.0-10.2
26.6-42.1
46.2-55.3
11.7-16.5
Nil-7.50
5.98-12.0

0.22
5.80
34.4
48.6
14.2
1.80
9.52

7.84-8.50
0.05-0.22
2.0-10.2
26.6-44.2
45.4-55.3
11.7-17.6
Nil -9.80
5.98-12.9

Table 2. Range and mean values of different forms of boron in


surface soils
Forms of B
Water soluble B
Hot water soluble B
Leachable B
Total B

Content (mg kg-1)


Range
Mean
0.14-0.28
0.20-0.72
0.26-0.84
18.16-28.54

0.21
0.37
0.54
23.26

Mean % of
total B
0.86
1.50
1.91
-

value. The modal class was 0.15 to 0.20 mg B kg-1


soil. Frequency distribution curve showed that nearly
one half (46%) of the samples fall under the modal
class. About 73% samples were in the range of 0.15
to 0.25 mg B kg-1. On an average, water soluble B
was 55% of HWS-B, 37% of leachableB and < 1%
of total B (Table 2). Nathani et al. (1970) reported
that water soluble boron in soils of Rajasthan varied
from 0.42 to 8.2 mg kg-1 with an average of 1.72 mg
kg-1. The content of water soluble boron varied from
0.43 to 1.29 mg kg-1 with an average of 0.73 mg kg-1
in non-saline soils and 0.43 to 2.58 mg kg-1 with an
average of 1.21 mg kg-1 in low saline soils of Delhi
(Gajbhiye et al. 1980). Water soluble boron in salinealkali soils of Punjab varied from 3.0 to 11.8 mg kg-1
as compared to 0.18 to 2.44 mg kg-1 in normal soils
(Kanwar and Singh 1961).
Clay content, silt content and CEC were positively and significantly correlated with water soluble
boron content with coefficient values of r = 0.632**,
0.481* and 0.752**, respectively whereas, relationship with sand content was negatively significant
(r = -0.654**) (Table 3). Singh and Kanwar (1963)
also observed significant positive relationship between
water soluble boron and soil texture. Water soluble
boron content and silt plus clay content was correlated significantly (r = 0.84**) in both non-saline and
low saline soils of Delhi (Gajbhiye et al. 1980) indicating that water soluble boron increases with in-

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JOURNAL OF THE INDIAN SOCIETY OF SOIL SCIENCE

Table 3. Correlation coefficients (r) between forms of boron


and soil characteristics
Soil
Water
Hot water Leachable-B
characteristics soluble-B soluble-B
pH
EC
OC
CaCO3
Sand
Silt
Clay
CEC

0.084
0.225
0.327
0.211
-0.654**
0.481*
0.632**
0.752**

0.128
0.286
0.392
0.186
-0.585**
0.462*
0.656**
0.592**

0.132
0.211
0.316
0.166
-0.612**
0.464*
0.667**
0.806**

Total-B
-0.044
0.205
0.285
0.128
-0.672**
0.478*
0.649**
0.572**

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* and ** indicate that values of correlation coefficient (r) are


significant at 5 and 1% probability levels, respectively.

creasing finer fractions of soil. Many other workers


have reported that fine textured soils contained more
available boron than the coarse textured soils (Singh
and Randhawa 1977; Sharma and Bajwa 1989). Water soluble boron content was not significantly related with pH (r = 0.084). According to Hingston
(1964) and Sims and Bingham (1967), boron retention, as a function of pH, was maximum between pH
7.5 and 8.5 and all the soil samples in present study
are in this range, therefore this may explain the reason for the lower value of correlation coefficients.
Positive but statistically non-significant relationship existed between water soluble boron and EC (r
= 0.225) and organic carbon content (r = 0.327) of
the soils (Table 3).
Hot water soluble boron: Hot water soluble boron (HWS-B) varied from 0.20 to 0.72 mg kg-1 soil
with a mean value of 0.37 mg kg-1 (Table 2). The
median value was 0.35 mg B kg-1 which is less than
the mean value and modal class varied from 0.20 to
0.40 mg B kg-1 soil with 60% of the samples falling
in this class. On an average, hot water soluble B was
68% of leachable B, and about 1.5% of total B. The
average content of hot water soluble boron ranged
from 0.10 to 2.0 mg kg-1 soil on world-wide basis
(Aubert and Pinta 1977). The range of available boron in soils of different states of India varied from
traces to 12.2 mg kg -1 (Das 2000). Katyal (1982)
reported that mean available boron content of
Aridisols, Vertisols and Alfisols of Punjab was 1.70,
0.59 and 1.06 mg kg-1 soil, respectively.
The clay and silt content was positively and
significantly correlated (r = 0.656** and r = 0.462*,
respectively) to HWS-B. Singh and Sinha (1976) also
reported that HWS-B content tended to increase with
increasing clay content of the soils. The relationship
between organic carbon and hot water soluble boron

[Vol. 55

was positive but statistically non-significant (r =


0.392) (Table 3). Sharma and Bajwa (1989) observed
positive and significant correlation between HWS-B
and organic matter, while Singh and Randhawa (1977)
found significantly negative relationship between available boron and organic matter content of the soils.
Positive significant correlation was noted between
HWS-B and CEC (r = 0.592**). Borkakti and Takkar
(2000) also reported similar relationship in soils of
Assam.
Leachable boron: There was a large variation in
leachable B fraction of these soils. The range varied
from 0.26 to 0.84 mg B kg-1 with a mean value of
0.54 mg B kg-1 soil (Table 2). The modal class of
0.40 to 0.60 mg B kg -1 soil contains 46% of the
samples. However, around 86% samples were in the
range of 0.20 to 0.80 mg B kg-1. Mean value was
slightly higher than median value of 0.58 mg kg-1.
Leachable boron was about <2% of total B. The mannitol- CaCl2 extractable boron ranged from 0.3 to 2.5
mg kg-1 with a mean value of 1.22 mg kg-1 in the
soils of Meghalaya (Dwivedi et al. 1993).
Leachable boron was significantly and positively
correlated with silt (r = 0.464*), clay (r = 0.667**)
and CEC (r = 0.806**) (Table 3). Leachable boron
content was strikingly higher in fine textured soils as
compared to coarse textured alluvial and lateritic soils
of Assam (Borkakti and Takkar 2000). Non-significant positive correlation between mannitol-CaCl2 extractable boron and pH was also reported by Dwivedi
et al. (1993). Positive but statistically non-significant
correlation existed between leachable-B and organic
carbon (r = 0.316) and negatively significant with
sand content (r = -0.612**).
Total boron: Total boron content of the soils
depends upon the parent material (Aubert and Pinta
1977). Soil derived from sedimentary rocks or those
of arid and semi-arid climatic conditions contain higher
content of boron. The total B varied from 18.16 to
28.54 mg kg-1 with a median value of 23.44 mg kg-1
which was close to the mean value of 23.26 mg kg-1
(Table 2). The modal class was 20.0 to 25.0 mg kg-1.
Fifty three per cent samples fell under this modal
class. Out of the total 15 samples covering wide
range among growing areas of Gurdaspur soil series,
80% samples fell in the range of 20 to 30 mg B kg-1.
The magnitude of total boron in the present study
appears to be quite comparable to those reported earlier. Singh and Randhawa (1977) reported that total
boron in the saline-alkali soils of Punjab varied from
14 to 81.3 mg kg-1. Total boron content in Indian
soils was found to vary between 3.8 and 630 mg kg-1
(Takkar 1982).

2007]

DISTRIBUTION OF FORMS OF BORON

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The perusal of table 3 showed that total boron


content was significantly correlated with silt, clay
and CEC of the soil. This shows that total boron was
associated with finer fractions of the soil. There was
a negatively significant correlation between total boron and sand content of the soil. Mathur et al. (1964)
also reported a positive relationship of total boron
with finer fractions like clay and silt content. Organic
carbon, EC and CaCO3 content did not show any
significant relationship with total B content of soils.
Water soluble, HWS, leachable and total B content of this soil series was close to the content reported by Sharma and Bajwa (1989) for central plain
region soils of Punjab. The low available B content of
Gurdaspur than the soils under central Punjab was
probably due to its closeness to udic moisture regime
where rainfall is much higher than other areas and
soluble boron is leached in lower layers.
Forms of B in Soil Profiles
The information on vertical distribution of B in
agricultural soils is important because it indicates the
depletion as well as accumulation pattern of boron, if
any, within the soil profile. The data in table 4 showed
that water soluble boron content of the soils decreased sharply with depth of the soil. It was nearly
0.22 mg kg-1 in surface layers and decreased to about
0.08 mg B kg-1 at lower depths (Table 4). Water
soluble boron decreased with depth in saline soils of
Saurastra (Gandhi and Mehta 1958) and in alkali soils
of Punjab (Kanwar and Singh 1961). Mathur et al.
(1964) observed that water soluble boron decreased
with depth in unirrigated soils, but after prolonged
irrigation with well waters high in boron, water
soluble boron increased with depth in soils of
Rajasthan. However, Chakraborty et al. (1982) observed that available boron did not follow any regular
pattern, though generally decreased with depth in
most of the soil profiles from Assam.
Results on hot water soluble content of boron
in soils of Gurdaspur series showed that it varied
from 0.18 to 0.72 mg kg-1 soil with an overall mean
value of 0.46 mg B kg-1 and weighted mean value
0.28 mg kg-1 in profile-I and 0.59 mg kg-1 in profileII of the soil series (Table 4). Surface layers generally had the higher hot water soluble boron content
than the lower layers, which may be due to the accumulation of HWS-B through irrigation waters. Similar
distribution pattern of HWS-B was also reported by
Sharma and Bajwa (1989) and Bhargava et al. (1974).
The values of HWS-B were found to be more than
WS-B in both the soil profiles. In the profile samples

251

from salt-affected soils of Punjab, the concentrations


of hot water soluble boron ranged from 0.10 to 15.5
mg kg-1 with a mean value of 0.28 mg kg-1 (Sharma
and Bajwa 1989). The hot water soluble boron content of the alluvium-derived soils from Ferozepur and
Faridkot districts of Punjab ranged from 0.20 to 3.85
mg kg-1 soil (Singh and Nayyar 1999).
The leachable boron content ranged from 0.30
to 0.72 mg kg-1 with a mean value of 0.49 mg kg-1
soils and weighted mean of 0.38 in profile-I and 0.56
mg kg-1 in profile-II (Table 4). This shows that most
of the boron is prone to leaching from the soils.
Generally, the leachable boron decreased with depth.
Higher amount of leachable boron was present in the
middle B-horizons as compared to the surface horizons which suggested that boron leached from the
surface layers was re-adsorbed in the lower horizons
of the soil profiles. Some of the profiles did not
show any consistent trend of accumulation of boron
with depth, which might be the result of fluctuating
ground water table in that area. The similar results
were obtained by Sharma and Bajwa (1989). Leachable boron content of the Assam soils markedly increased with increasing soil depth under high rainfall
conditions in contrast to a significant decline down
the profile under low rainfall conditions (Borkakti and
Takkar 2000).
Although total boron does not affect the plant
growth and its contribution is low as compared to
other forms of boron but it helps in knowing its
Table 4. Profile distribution of different forms of boron (mg
kg-1 soil)
Horizon Depth
(cm)

WS-B

HWS-B

Leachable-B

Profile-I (Gurdaspur series; Typic Haplustalf)


Ap
0-13
0.22
0.52
0.50
AB
13-32
0.20
0.50
0.54
Bt1
32-45
0.14
0.24
0.36
Bt2
45-62
0.12
0.20
0.36
Bt3
62-93
0.08
0.18
0.32
Bt4
93-117
0.12
0.20
0.30
Mean
0.15
0.31
0.40
W. Mean
0.13
0.28
0.38
Profile-II (Gurdaspur series; Typic Haplustalf)
Ap
0-20
0.22
0.45
0.47
BA
20-42
0.18
0.48
0.60
Bt1
42-66
0.15
0.58
0.48
Bt2
66-95
0.16
0.72
0.60
Bt3
95-108
0.16
0.50
0.72
Bt4
108-122 0.18
0.56
0.58
Mean
0.18
0.55
0.58
W. Mean
0.17
0.59
0.56
W. Mean : Weighted mean

Total-B

24.22
28.72
34.85
38.34
40.26
42.90
34.88
36.25
18.14
19.25
22.20
24.35
25.30
27.46
22.78
22.45

252

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potential reserve in soil. The data in table 4 show that


total boron content ranged from 22.20 to 42.90 mg
kg-1 soil with an average value and weighted mean of
34.88 and 36.25 and 22.78 and 22.45 mg kg-1 soil in
profile-I and II, respectively. Higher mean content of
total boron in soil profiles was observed in profile-I
representing Gurdaspur soil series (34.88 mg kg-1).
Conclusions
The knowledge regarding the different forms of
boron in soils and the understanding of the soil parameters controlling its availability is important for
the appraisal of available B status of soils. The study
also gives an idea regarding the pattern of B distribution in profiles. The present study shows that available boron is nearly 2% of the total boron content
and it is mainly governed by the finer fractions of the
soil. Water soluble and hot water soluble forms of B
are more accumulated in surface soil layers as compared to sub-surface while total B content was higher
in lower horizons of soil profiles tested.
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