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Contemporary pedogenic formation of palygorskite in irrigation-induced, saline-sodic, shrink-swell soils of Maharashtra, India

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Increasing use of irrigation in India has exacerbated the problems of soil salinity and sodicity. The present study was undertaken on shrink-swell soils from Maharastra State to determine if changes in soil chemistry due to irrigation have affected the clay mineralogy. Twenty six samples (15 locations) of irrigation-induced, saline-sodic, shrink-swell soils and 27 samples (22 locations) of normal un-irrigated (rain-fed) shrink-swell soils were studied using X-ray powder diffraction (XRPD), infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and scanning and transmission electron microscopy (SEM, TEM). The XRPD analysis of the <0.2 m fraction of rain-fed, shrink-swell soils indicates a predominance of dioctahedral smectite with minor to trace amounts of kaolinite and chlorite. Traces of palygorskite (1–4%) were detected in three samples. In contrast, palygorskite is a common component (1–20%) of the fine-clay fraction of saline-sodic soils. Quantitative analysis of palygorskite by XRPD in whole-soil (<2 mm) samples showed that saline-sodic soils contain up to 20 wt.% of palygorskite, whereas palygorskite was only detectable (1.5 wt.%) in one sample of the rain-fed set. The SEM, TEM, and FTIR confirm the presence of Fe-rich palygorskite in saline-sodic soils and demonstrate that the fibrous palygorskite crystals are exceedingly small (∼0.5 m long). Delicate palygorskite fibers radiate from the margins of smectite plates suggestive of a pedogenic origin and a close genetic relationship between smectite and palygorskite. The compositions of saturation-paste extracts display a shift from the stability field of smectite in rain-fed soils to that of palygorskite in saline-sodic soils. Thus the occurrence and formation of palygorskite appears to be related to the change in land management from rain-fed to irrigated agriculture. This change has occurred over a period of no more than 40–50 y, implying that palygorskite formation in the irrigated, saline-sodic soils has been an extremely rapid process.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-10-01

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  • The JOURNAL publishes articles of interest to the international community of clay scientists, including but not limited to areas in mineralogy, crystallography, geology, geochemistry, sedimentology, soil science, agronomy, physical chemistry, colloid chemistry, ceramics, petroleum engineering, foundry engineering, and soil mechanics. Clays and Clay Minerals exists to disseminate to its worldwide readership the most recent developments in all of these aspects of clay materials. Manuscripts are welcome from all countries.

    Clays and Clay Minerals is the official publication of The Clay Minerals Society.

    The Editor-in-Chief is Professor Joseph W. Stucki [email protected]

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