Expansive Soils

  • Khan Towhid Osman


Soils that contain a large amount of clay – at least more than 30 percent, a large proportion of fine clay in the clay fraction, and the clay fraction generally dominated by 2:1 expanding type of smectitic clay, chiefly montmorillonite, expand in volume when wetted and shrink when dried; they shrink so severely that deep and wide cracks, through which soil materials can slide downward, develop in the dry season. These clay soils are known as expansive soils, shrink-swell soils, cracking soils, or vertic soils. Some clay soils contain high proportion of exchangeable sodium in colloidal surfaces. They remain dispersed and are called dispersive clay soils. Their consistence – very sticky when wet and very hard when dry, their cracks, and their contraction and expansion in volume with changes in soil moisture offer severe limitations to their agricultural and engineering uses. Unique morphological features such as slickensides in the middle of the profile and circular or polygonal landscape features known as gilgai often develop on the surface soil due to their alternate swelling and shrinking behavior. These soils are classified in the Vertisols order of Soil Taxonomy and Vertisol Reference Soil Group of World Reference Base for Soil Resources. These soils were earlier called Regur, Gilgai, Margalite, Tirs, Black Cotton Soils, etc. The major areas of Vertisols are found in Australia, India, Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia. For their profitable and sustainable agricultural use potential, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), and the Agricultural Research Centre for the Semi-arid Tropics (CPATSA) have been developing innovative management packages including broad bed and furrow system, reduced tillage systems and their modifications.


Expansive clays Vertisols Shrink-swell soils Cracking soils Gilgai Pedoturbation Slickensides Broad bed and furrow Broad bed maker 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Khan Towhid Osman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Soil ScienceUniversity of ChittagongChittagongBangladesh

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