Certain Soil Surfactants Could Become a Source of Soil Water Repellency after Repeated Application

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Repeated application of soil surfactants, or wetting agents, is a common practice for alleviating soil water repellency associated with soil organic coatings. However, wetting agents are organic compounds that may also coat soil particle surfaces and reduce wettability. For this experiment, hydrophobic sands from the field and fresh, wettable sands were collected and treated with either a polyoxyalkylene polymer (PoAP) or alkyl block polymer (ABP) wetting agent, or water only treatments served as a control. Following repeated treatment application and sequential washings, dissolved and particulate organic carbon (OC) were detected in the leachates of both sand systems. The total amount of OC recovered in leachates was 88% or less than the OC introduced by the wetting agents, indicating sorption of wetting agent monomers to soil particle surfaces regardless of soil hydrophobicity status. While ABP treatment did not alter solid phase organic carbon (SOC) in the sands studied, PoAP application increased SOC by 16% and 45% which was visible in scanning electronic microscopy images, for hydrophobic and wettable sands, respectively. PoAP application also increased the hydrophobicity of both sands that were studied. In contrast, ABP treatment increased the wettability of hydrophobic sand. Our results provide strong evidence that certain wetting agents may increase soil hydrophobicity and exacerbate wettability challenges if used repeatedly over time.




Song, E.; Goyne, K.W.; Kremer, R.J.; Anderson, S.H.; Xiong, X. Certain Soil Surfactants Could Become a Source of Soil Water Repellency after Repeated Application. Nanomaterials 2021, 11, 2577.