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Colloid and Phosphorus Leaching From Undisturbed Soil Cores Sampled Along a Natural Clay Gradient

Vendelboe, Anders Lindblad1; Moldrup, Per2; Heckrath, Goswin1; Jin, Yan3; de Jonge, Lis Wollesen1

doi: 10.1097/SS.0b013e31822391bc
Soils Issues

The presence of strongly sorbing compounds in groundwater and tile drains can be a result of colloid-facilitated transport. Colloid and phosphorus leaching from macropores in undisturbed soil cores sampled across a natural clay gradient at Aarup, Denmark, were studied. The aim of the study was to correlate easily measurable soil properties, such as clay content and water-dispersible colloids, to colloid and phosphorus leaching. The clay contents across the gradient ranged from 0.11 to 0.23 kg kg−1. Irrigating with artificial rainwater, all samples showed a high first flush of colloids and phosphorus followed by lower and stable colloid and phosphorus concentrations. The mass of particles leached at first flush was independent of clay content and was attributed to the instant release of particles associated with the macropore walls and released upon contact with flowing water. Below a clay content of ∼0.15 kg kg−1, the later leaching (after the first flush) of particles was independent of the clay content. Above this threshold, there was a positive relationship between the mass of leached particles after the first flush and the clay content. Particle release after the first flush was linearly correlated to the accumulated outflow and was described as a diffusion controlled process, using √(accumulated outflow). The mass of leached particles was positively correlated to the clay content as well as to water-dispersible colloids. Particulate phosphorus (P) was linearly correlated to concentration of leached particles and accounted for ∼70% of the total mass of leached P. Approximately 50% of particulate P was associated with the first flush. The P concentration on leached particles was negatively correlated to clay content (R2 = 0.89) and followed the same trend as the P concentration on soil clay and the so-called degree of P saturation (oxalate-extractable P on iron and aluminum minerals). Because higher colloidal P concentration was countered by a lower colloidal leaching, the total amount of leached P stayed remarkably constant along the natural clay gradient.

1Department of Agroecology, Faculty of Science and Technology, Aarhus University, Blichers Allé 20, P.O. Box 50, DK-8830 Tjele, Denmark. Mr. Anders Lindblad Vendelboe is corresponding author. E-mail:

2Department of Biotechnology, Chemistry and Environmental Engineering, Aalborg University, Sohngaardsholmsvej 57, DK-9000 Aalborg, Denmark.

3Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Delaware, Newark, DE.

Received March 10, 2011.

Accepted for publication May 09, 2011.

Financial Disclosures/Conflicts of Interest: This work was financed in part by the international project Soil Infrastructure, Interfaces, and Translocation Processes in Inner Space (Soil-it-is) granted by the Danish Research Council for Technology and Production Sciences ( and in part by the GEORAP project (Geology-dependent Variation in Transport Processes with respect to Risk Assessment of Phosphorus Loss) financed by the Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries. The authors report no conflicts of interest.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.