Principles of Soil Chemistry: 4th Edition (Hardback) book cover

Principles of Soil Chemistry

4th Edition

By Kim H. Tan

CRC Press

390 pages | 123 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2010-10-18
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Learn the secrets of soil chemistry and its role in agriculture and the environment. Examine the fundamental laws of soil chemistry, how they affect dissolution, cation and anion exchange, and other reactions. Explore how water can form water-bridges and hydrogen bonding, the most common forces in adsorption, chelation, and more. Discover how electrical charges develop in soils creating electrochemical potentials forcing ions to move into the plant body through barriers such as root membranes, nourishing crops and plants. You can do all this and more with Principles of Soil Chemistry, Fourth Edition.

Since the first edition published in 1982, this resource has made a name for itself as a textbook for upper level undergraduates and as a handy reference for professionals and scientists. This fourth edition reexamines the entire reach of soil chemistry while maintaining the clear, concise style that made previous editions so user-friendly. By completely revising, updating, and incorporating a decade’s worth of new information, author Kim Tan has made this edition an entirely new and better book.

See what's new in the Fourth Edition

  • Reexamines atoms as the smallest particle that will enter into chemical reactions by probing new advances testifying the presence of subatomic particles and concepts such as string theory
  • Underscores oxygen as the key element in soil air and atmosphere for life on earth
  • Reevaluates the idea of transformation of orthoclase into albite by simple cation exchange reactions as misleading and bending scientific concepts of ion exchange over the limit of truth
  • Examines the role of fertilizers, sulfur, pyrite, acid rain, and nitrogen fixation in soil acidity, underscoring the controversial effect of nitrification on increasing soil acidity over time
  • Addresses the old and new approaches to humic acids by comparing the traditional operational concept against the currently proposed supramolecular and pseudomicellar concept
  • Proposes soil organics, such as nucleic acids of DNA and others, to also adsorb cation ions held as diffusive ion clouds around the polymers

Tan explains, in easy and simple language, the chemical make-up of the four soil constituents, their chemical reactions and interactions in soils as governed by basic chemical laws, and their importance in agriculture, industry, and the environment. He differentiates soil chemistry from geochemistry and physical chemistry. Containing more than 200 equations, 123 figures, and 38 tables, this popular text and resource supplies a comprehensive treatment of soil chemistry that builds a foundation for work in environmental pollution, organic and inorganic soil contamination, and potential ecological health and environmental health risks.


"…written in a clear and concise manner and makes cross-reference between sections to help the reader; it also has a detailed index which is essential in a book of this nature…useful to have on the shelf to pick up when you wish to seek information about soil chemistry."

—Stephen Nortcliff, in Experimental Agriculture, Vol. 47 (3)

"…bridges the gap between pure chemistry and soil science and presents soil as a basic entity in a wide range of disciplines."

Bulletin of the International Society of Soil Science

"Included in this text are many interesting historic details and other items of information usually overlooked in most recent highly focused textbooks…provides interesting and…useful background and supplementary reading for any course in soil chemistry…a valuable addition to all soils libraries, both public and private."

Soil Science

Table of Contents

Definitions and Concepts of Solid Chemistry

The Issue of Soil Chemistry

Definition of Chemistry

Concept of Soil Physical Chemistry

Concept of Geochemistry

Concept of Soil Chemistry

Overview of Basic Chemical Principles and Units

Atom and Atomic Structure

Particle Accelerators or Synchrotons

Elementary Particles

String Theory

Atomic Model of Rutherford and Bohr

Mass and Weight

Atomic Mass and Atomic Mass Number

Atomic Number

Atomic Weights

Avogadro's Number

Atomic Orbitals

Atomic Radius


Equivalent Weight

Chemical Units



Half-Life of Radioactive Material and Carbon Dating

Soil Composition and Electrochemical Potentials

Soil Composition

Concept of Electrochemical Potentials

The Nernst Equation

Electrode Potentials in Redox Reactions

Electron Activity

rH Concept

Chemical Potential

Electrochemical Potential

Membrane or Donnan Potential

Soil Gas and Liquid Phases

The Gaseous Phase

Composition of Soil Air

The Oxygen Revolution

Soil Aeration and Aerification

Characterization of Soil Air Quality

Humidity of Soil Air


The Liquid Phase

Chemistry of Soil Water

Oxygen Demand of Water

Soil-Water Energy Concept

Plant-Soil-Water Energy Relation

Law of Mass Action and Equilibrium Constant

Solubility Product

Dissociation of Water

Dissociation of Strong Electrolytes

Dissociation of Weak Electrolytes

The Henderson-Hasselbalch Equation

The Equilibrium Constant and Ion Pairs

The Exchange Constant and Ion Exchange

Relationship between Equilibrium Constant and Cell or Electrode Potential

Equilibrium Constant and Free Energy Relationship

Equilibrium Constant and Electron Activity

Activity and Standard State

Debye-Hueckel Theory and Activity Coefficients

Ionic Strength

Colloidal Chemistry of Organic Soil Constituents

The Colloidal System

The Organic Components

Soil Humus


Amino Acids, Peptides and Protein


Nucleic Acids


Humic Matter

Colloidal Chemistry of Inorganic Soil Constituents

The Clay Fraction of Soils

Structural Chemistry of Clay Minerals

The Identification of Clay Minerals

Surface Chemistry of Soil Clays

Surface Areas

Origin of Negative Charge in Soil Clays

Positive Charges and Zero Point of Charge

The Use of ΔpH in the Determination of Negative or Positive Charges

Surface Potential

Electric Double Layer

The Zeta (ζ) Potential

The Electric Double Layer and Stability of Clays

The Effect of Flocculation and Dispersion on Plant Growth

Adsorption in Soils

Types of Adsorption

Adsorption Characteristics

Forces of Adsorption

Adsorption Isotherms

Adsorption of Water

Plant-Soil-Water Energy Relation

Adsorption of Organic Compounds

Interparticle Attraction

Cation Exchange

Adsorption of Cations by Soil Colloids

Cation Exchange Reactions

Cation Exchange Capacity

The Exchanging Powers of Cations

The Ionic Composition of The Exchange Complex

Empirical Equations of Cation Exchange

Mass Action Law Equations of Cation Exchange

Kinetic Equations of Cation Exchange

Thermodynamic Equations of Cation Exchange

Cation Exchange Equation Based on the Donnan Theory

Cation Exchange Equation of Eriksson

Cation Exchange Equation According to the Diffuse Double Layer Theory

Schofield's Ratio Law

Fixation of Cations

Base Saturation

Adsorption and Exchange of Cations by Soil Organic Matter

Anion Exchange

Positive Charges

Adsorption of Anions by Soil Colloids

Phosphate Retention and Fixation

Biological Fixation of Phosphate

Soil Reaction and Availability of Inorganic Phosphates

Prediction of Phosphate Ion Concentration According to Schofield's Ratio Law

The Phosphate Potential

Soil Reaction

Definition and Importance

Acid-Base Chemistry

Application in Soils

Formulation of Soil Acidity and Alkalinity

Concepts of Soil Acidity

The Role of Aluminum in Soil Acidity

The Role of Fertilizers, Sulfur, Pyrite, N-Fixation, and Acid Rain in Soil Acidity

Buffering Capacity of Soils

Electrometric Measurement of Soil pH

Suspension Effect in Soil pH Measurement

Lime Potential

The Need for Acidic Soil Reactions

Soil Reactions in Saline and Sodic Soils

Chemical Characterization of Saline and Sodic Soils

Effect of Salinization and Sodication on Plant Growth

Irrigation of Saline and Sodic Soils

Salt Balance and Leaching Ratio

Irrigation-Induced Salinization and Sodication

Soil Chemistry and Soil Formation

Concepts of Weathering

Weathering Processes

Stability and Weathering of Soil Minerals

Weathering of Feldspars and the Silica Potential

Weathering of Kaolinite and the Gibbsite Potential

Stability and Phase Relationships of Soil Minerals

Biological and Biochemical Weathering

Soil Formation Processes or Pedogenesis

Oxidation and Reduction Reaction in Soils

Chemistry of Soil–Organic Matter Interaction

Complex Formation and Chelation

Interactions with Soil Organic Compounds

Metal–Organic Complex Reaction

Clay–Organic Compound ComplexesComplex Formation and Mobility of Soil Constituents

Stability Diagram of Metal Chelates

Complex Formation and Clay Mobility

Complex Formation and Soil Fertility

Appendix A Fundamental Constants

Appendix B Greek Alphabet

Appendix C Periodic Classification of Elements

Appendix D X-ray Diffraction 21 d Spacing Conversion Table

Appendix E System International (SI) Units

Appendix F Factors for Converting U.S. units into SI units

References and Additional Readings


About the Series

Books in Soils, Plants, and the Environment

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Chemistry / General
SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / Geology
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / General
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Agriculture / General