Base saturation indicates the balance between acid and base cations adsorbed by the cation exchange complex (CEC) of a soil. The term is a partial misnomer because a base is a chemical compound that can react with an acid to form a salt; calcium hydroxide, Ca(OH) 2, is an appropriate example. In the present context, however, it is now understood to mean the cation of the base, that is, Ca 2+, as distinct from the cations H 3O + and [A1(H 2O) 6] 3+, which are acids.
If a neutral solution (that is, at pH 7) of a salt such as ammonium chloride percolates through a neutral soil, the leachate will contain an amount of cations equivalent to that in the initial solution, although the composition of the leachate will be different because of cation exchange; in particular, the leachate will be enriched in Ca 2+. If, on the other hand, the neutral salt solution passes through an acid soil, the leachate will be acid, and it will contain less base cations than the added solution because the base...
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