University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


Knowing the proportion of particle sizes in soil is important to soil scientists and agronomists. The mixture of sand, silt, and clay influences water movement, solute transport, nutrient retention, and many other properties and processes in soil. The standard method for particle size determination is a somewhat time-consuming process. An equally accurate but shorter method would be appealing for many reasons. The objective of this study was to compare a standard method of particle-size analysis using a hydrometer to an abbreviated hydrometer method, which, instead of 12 h for the standard method, requires about 3 h to complete. Twenty-four soil samples of varying textural classes determined by the standard method were reprocessed for particle-size and textural-class determination using an abbreviated hydrometer method. Results of the methods comparison showed that the textural class from the abbreviated method matched that of the standard method in only 10 of 24 samples and that the abbreviated method over-estimated the amount of total sand in the soil sample. The abbreviated method was reasonably accurate in comparison to the standard method with respect to percentages of clay and silt. Based on this comparison, the time savings gained with the abbreviated method do not outweigh the lack of accuracy of particle-size determination with coarsetextured soils, but may be justifiable for fine-textured soils without a large fraction of sand-sized material.

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