Submitted to: Soil Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/23/2009
Publication Date: 12/1/2009
Publication URL: http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/53102000/pdf_pubs/P2312.pdf
Citation: Segal, E., Shouse, P.J., Bradford, S.A., Skaggs, T.H., Corwin, D.L. 2009. Measuring Particle Size Distribution using Laser Diffraction: Implications for Predicting Soil Hydraulic Properties. Soil Science. 174(12)639:645.
Interpretive Summary: Methods to predict water flow properties through soils frequently require information on the particle size distribution (PSD) of soils. The objective of this study was to investigate methods to rapidly the measure PSD and to assess the accuracy of the predicted soil water flow properties on a wide variety of soil types. Results demonstrated that a reasonable prediction of soil water flow properties could be achieved when using PSD information obtained using an improved laser diffraction technique. This information will be of use to scientist and engineers concerned with studying environmental processes at the farm, basin, or regional scales where numerous samples are needed.
Technical Abstract: Methods to predict soil hydraulic properties frequently require information on the particle size distribution (PSD). The objectives of this study were to investigate various protocols for rapidly measuring PSD using the laser diffraction technique, compare the obtained PSDs with those determined using the traditional hydrometer and sieves method (HSM), and assess the accuracy of soil hydraulic properties predicted from the measured PSDs. Ten soil samples encompassing a wide textural range were analyzed using the HSM and 3 different laser diffraction methods (LDM1, LDM2, and LDM3). In LDM1, the soil sample was thoroughly mixed before analysis. In LDM2, the sand fraction was sieved out and analyzed separately from the silt-clay fraction. LDM3 was similar to LDM2 except that the silt-clay fraction was diluted so that a large sample volume could be used while maintaining an acceptable level of obscuration. LDM2 and LDM3 improved the agreement between the PSD with the HSM in comparison to LDM1, without the need of altering the Mie theory parameters or the use of scaling factors. Moreover, a reasonable prediction of measured saturated hydraulic conductivity and water retention curve was achieved when using the PSD from LDM2 and LDM3, in conjunction with bulk density information.