The cohesion of hardsetting horizons of Brazilian soils has been mainly associated to inter-related physical and chemical factors, but an influence of mineralogical and crystallographic properties of clay minerals was also suggested by some researchers. In this study we tested the possibility that clay fraction of hardsetting horizons of soils from the Barreiras sediments of Coastal Tablelands are predominantly kaolinitic and highly crystalline and organized, which can favor a face-to-face arrangement of the crystals. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the crystallographic and mineralogical characteristics of clay minerals in hardsetting soil horizons from the sediment group Barreiras and their contribution to the hardsetting character. One non-hardsetting and five hardsetting horizons were studied along the coastal tableland. A kaolinite sample with high crystallinity degree was also included as reference. All profiles were analyzed for taxonomic classification and location of the horizons of interest. Organic matter and oxides were removed from the samples of the selected horizons. After soil dispersion, the clay fraction was individualized, treated and examined by X-ray diffraction (XRD) to determine the minerals and structure degree of order/disorder, according to the method described by Plançon & Zacarie (1990). The degree of structural organization of the kaolinites of the hardsetting and non-hardsetting horizons was similar to and lower than the kaolinite used as reference. Results indicated that the hardsetting behavior of the studied soils could not be explained by clay packaging.
kaolinite; compact horizons; crystallographic properties; expert system