Canyonlands Research Bibliography


Comparison of Ion-Exchange Resin Counterions in the Nutrient Measurement of Calcareous Soils: Implications for Correlative Studies of Plant-Soil Relationships

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis





First Page


Last Page


Publication Date



For more than 40 years, ion-exchange resins have been used to characterize nutrient bioavailability in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. To date, however, no standardized methodology has been developed, particularly with respect to the counterions that initially occupy resin exchange sites. To determine whether different resin counterions yield different measures of soil nutrients and rank soils differently with respect to their measured nutrient bioavailability, we compared nutrient measurements by three common counterion combinations (HCl, HOH, and NaHCO3). Five sandy calcareous soils were chosen to represent a range of soil characteristics at Canyonlands National Park, Utah, and resin capsules charged with the different counterions equilibrated in saturated pastes of these soils for one week. Data were converted to proportions of total ions of corresponding charge for ANOVA. Results from the different methods were not comparable with respect to any nutrient. Of eleven nutrients measured, all but iron (Fe2+), manganese (Mn2+), and zinc (Zn2+) differed significantly (p less than or equal to 0.05) as a function of soil X counterion interactions; Fe2+ and Zn2+ varied as functions of counterion alone. Of the counterion combinations, HCl-resins yielded the most net ion exchange with all measured nutrients except Na+, NH4+, and HPO42-, the three of which desorbed in the greatest quantities from HOH-resins. Conventional chemical extractions using ammonium acetate generally yielded high proportional values of Ca2+, K+, and Na+. Further, among-soil rankings of nutrient bioavailability varied widely among methods. This study highlights the fact that various ion-exchange resin techniques for measuring soil nutrients may have differential effects on the soil-resin environment and yield data that should not be compared nor considered interchangeable. The most appropriate methods for characterizing soil-nutrient bioavailability depends on soil characteristics and likely on the physiological uptake mechanisms of plants or functional groups of interest. The effects of different extraction techniques on nutrient measures should be understood before selecting an extraction method. For example, in the calcareous soils used for this experiment, nutrient extraction methods that alter soil carbonates through dissolution or precipitation could compromise the accurate measurement of plant-available nutrients. The implications of this study emphasize the universal importance of understanding the differential effects of alternate methods on soil chemistry.


Originally published by Taylor & Francis.