Soil mechanical properties as influenced by exchangeable cations


  • A. R. DEXTER,

    1. Waite Agricultural Research Institute, The University of Adelaide, Glen Osmond, South Australia 5064
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    • AFRC Institute of Engineering Research, Wrest Park, Silsoe, Bedford, MK45 4HS, UK.

  • K. Y. CHANT

    1. Biological and Chemical Research Institute. NSW Department of Agriculture, PMB 10, Rydalmere, New South Wales 2116, Australia
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The tensile strengths of dried, undisturbed aggregates and of dried, artificial aggregates and the shear strengths of freshly-moulded, moist soils were investigated as functions of their contents of exchangeable cations.

Tensile strength increased with increasing exchangeable sodium and decreased with increasing exchangeable calcium. Shear strength of moist soil, as assessed through the Atterberg limits, increased with increasing exchangeable calcium, potassium and sodium. The influence of exchangeable magnesium was variable in that it tended to increase the tensile strength of the soils when dry, whereas it tended to decrease the shear strength of one of the sets of soils in the moist state.

It is concluded that the exchangeable cations which give rise to greater repulsion between, and dispersion of, clay particles in water also give rise to greater strength in the dried soil. It is proposed that this is because greater particle repulsion in the soil water during drying enables particle rearrangements to take place more readily and this results in denser packing arrangements and increased strength.