University of California

The rôle of kaolinite in phosphate fixation


H. F. Murphy

Author Affiliations

H. F. Murphy was Graduate student of the University of California 1930-31, and 1937-38; now Associate Professor of Soils, Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 12(5):341-382. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v12n05p341. February 1939.

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When a soluble phosphate is brought in contact with the soil, reactions take place which remove a great deal, if not all, of the phosphate from solution. This phenomenon has been called “the fixation of phosphates by soils.” Such a term carries no implication of the means by which removal takes place or of the product formed; it conveys only the idea that the phosphate has been changed and is present in some form that is only slightly soluble under the prevailing conditions. To the scientist who is interested in soil relations, plant relations, and the complex soil-plant system, more than the mere fact that the “phosphate is fixed by the soil” is required. The mechanism of the fixation is important to the soil specialist, while the means of resupplying the soil solution or the plant from the phosphate so held is important to the plant physiologist.

The investigations reported here were undertaken to obtain more fundamental data on the manner of phosphate fixation in soils not controlled by the calcium system.

Phosphate-Fixation Systems

The reactions converting phosphates into less soluble forms are several in number. The various types of fixation may now be classified into a few groups, which will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

Group 1, Chemical Precipitation.—Until rather recently, chemical precipitation has been considered the primary cause of phosphate fixation in all soils. This precipitation has been attributed largely to Ca, Fe, Al, Mg, and Mn.

A great many soils are governed by what may be termed the “calcium system.” Soils with such a system predominate in arid and semiarid regions and also occur in the more humid sections. In these soils, calcium is the predominating cation, although leaching may have removed it to a considerable degree. In some instances, leaching has been so severe that the only calcium left is found in a few local zones, and the soils are very acid.

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Murphy H. 1939. The rôle of kaolinite in phosphate fixation. Hilgardia 12(5):341-382. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v12n05p341
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