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Keywords:

  • Acidity control;
  • Adams and Evans buffer;
  • Mehlich buffer;
  • net acid addition rate;
  • time to critical pH;
  • Woodruff buffer

Abstract

The pH buffer capacity of a soil (pHBC) determines the amount of lime required to raise the pH of the soil layer from its initial acid condition to an optimal pH for plant growth and the time available under current net acid addition rate (NAAR) until the soil layer acidifies to a critical pH leading to likely production losses. Accurate values of pHBC can also be used to calculate NAAR from observed changes in soil pH. In spite of its importance, there is a critical shortage of pHBC data, likely due to the long period of time needed for its direct measurement. This work aimed to develop quick, simple and reliable methods of pHBC measurement and to test these methods against a slow (7-day) titration used as benchmark. The method developed here calculates pHBC directly from the pH buffer capacity of the buffer solution and the increase in soil pH and corresponding decrease in pH of the buffer solution following mixing and equilibration. The pHBC values calculated using Adams and Evans or modified Woodruff buffers were in accord with those measured by slow titration. Buffer methods are easily deployed in commercial and research laboratories as well as in the field. The advantage of using buffer solutions to calculate pHBC instead of lime requirement is the broad application of this soil property. The pHBC of a soil is an intrinsic property that would not be expected to need remeasurement over periods of less than decades. Recurring lime requirement can be calculated from the soil's pHBC, initial and target pH values. A large proportion of the variability in pHBC was explained by the soil organic carbon content. This relationship between pHBC and soil organic carbon content allowed us to develop local pedotransfer functions to estimate pHBC for different regions of Australia.