Do Aggregate Size Classes of the Subsurface Soil Horizon Have Different Chemical/Mineralogical Properties?
Variations in chemical and mineralogical properties of a soil can occur at short vertical and horizontal distances. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the chemical and mineralogical soil properties of different aggregate classes from young (Ustrochrept) and highly weathered (Acrustox) soils from the state of Paraná, Brazil. Undisturbed blocks (0.20 ×0.20 ×0.20 m) of soils were separated into aggregate classes: Acrustox – 8.0-4.0 mm; 4-2 mm; 2.0-0.5 mm; 0.5-0.2 mm; and <0.2 mm; and Ustrochrept – 8.0-4.0 mm; 4.0-2.0 mm; 2.0-0.5 mm; and 0.5-0.2 mm. The exchangeable K contents showed an opposite behavior for the two soils: higher contents in the Acrustox for the larger aggregate classes and higher contents in the Ustrochrept for the smaller aggregate classes. The crystallographic characteristics of hematite and goethite were variable according to the aggregate class. The goethite in the 2-4-mm aggregate class is expected to exhibit the highest reactivity for the Ustrochrept: lower growth and a more elongated form of the crystals. The smallest aggregate class presented the lowest contents of kaolinite and gibbsite in the clay fraction. Gibbsite and kaolinite in the intermediate classes presented higher growth in both soils. The studied soils present different side-by-side environments (aggregate classes) for the exploration by the root system. This means that for the precise identification of the environments explored by the roots of a single plant, field sampling should consider the aggregate class, obtained from an undisturbed soil sample. However, this is impractical in agricultural practice.