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Classification of soil water

Soil water has been classified from a physical and biological point of view as Physical classification of soil water, and biological classification of soil water.

Physical classification of soil water
1. Gravitational water: Gravitational water occupies the larger soil pores (macro pores) and moves down readily under the force of gravity. Water in excess of the field capacity is termed gravitational water. Gravitational water is of no use to plants because it occupies the larger pores. It reduces aeration in the soil. Thus, its removal from soil is a requisite for optimum plant growth. Soil moisture tension at gravitational state is zero or less than 1/3 atmosphere.
Factors affecting gravitational water

i. Texture: Plays a great role in controlling the rate of movement of gravitational water. The flow of water is proportional to the size of particles. The bigger the particle, the more rapid is the flow or movement. Because of the larger size of pore, water percolates more easily and rapidly in sandy soils than in clay soils.

ii. Structure: It also affects gravitational water. In platy structure movement of gravitational water is slow and water stagnates in the soil. Granular and crumby structure helps to improve gravitational water movement. In clay soils having single grain structure, the gravitational water, percolates more slowly. If clay soils form aggregates (granular structure), the movement of gravitational water improves.

2. Capillary water: Capillary water is held in the capillary pores (micro pores). Capillary water is retained on the soil particles by surface forces. It is held so strongly that gravity cannot remove it from the soil particles. The molecules of capillary water are free and mobile and are present in a liquid state. Due to this reason, it evaporates easily at ordinary temperature though it is held firmly by the soil particle; plant roots are able to absorb it. Capillary water is, therefore, known as available water. The capillary water is held between 1/3 and 31 atmosphere pressure.

Factors affecting capillary water: The amount of capillary water that a soil is able to hold varies considerably. The following factors are responsible for variation in the amount of capillary water.

i. Surface tension: An increase in surface tension increases the amount of capillary water.

ii. Soil texture: The finer the texture of a soil, greater is the amount of capillary water holds. This is mainly due to the greater surface area and a greater number of micro pores.

iii. Soil structure: Platy structure contains more water than granular structure.

iv. Organic matter: The presence of organic matter helps to increase the capillary capacity of a soil. Organic matter itself has a great capillary capacity. Undecomposed organic matter is generally porous having a large surface area, which helps to hold more capillary water. The humus that is formed on decomposition has a great capacity for absorbing and holding water. Hence the presence of organic matter in soil increases the amount of capillary water in soil.

3. Hygroscopic water: The water that held tightly on the surface of soil colloidal particle is known as hygroscopic water. It is essentially non-liquid and moves primarily in the vapour form.

Hygroscopic water held so tenaciously (31 to 10000 atmospheres) by soil particles that plants can not absorb it. Some microorganism may utilize hygroscopic water. As hygroscopic water is held tenaciously by surface forces its removal from the soil requires a certain amount of energy. Unlike capillary water which evaporates easily at atmospheric temperature, hygroscopic water cannot be separated from the soil unless it is heated.
Factors affecting hygroscopic water: Hygroscopic water is held on the surface of colloidal particles by the dipole orientation of water molecules. The amount of hygroscopic water varies inversely with the size of soil particles. The smaller the particle, the greater is the amount of hygroscopic water it adsorbs. Fine textured soils like clay contain more hygroscopic water than coarse textured soils.

The amount of clay and also its nature influences the amount of hygroscopic water. Clay minerals of the montmoril1onite type with their large surface area adsorb more water than those of the kaolinite type, while illite minerals are intermediate.

Current Category » Introduction to Soil Science