The effect of heating temperature on the properties of vermiculites from Tanzania with respect to potential agronomic applications

Ernest M. M. Marwa, Andrew A. Meharg, Clive M. Rice

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This study was carried out to assess the properties of vermiculites from Tanzania with respect to the temperature used to expand them. Vermiculites from five locations in the Mozambique Belt of Tanzania were sampled and heated at 15, 200, 400, 600 and 800 degrees C in a muffle furnace. Palabora Europe Ltd provided one sample for comparison from their South Africa deposit which provides vermiculite used worldwide as a soil amendment. Water release characteristic, cation exchange capacity, pH, mass loss, and bulk density were among the properties assessed. All six vermiculites responded differently on heating, and had a significant variation in their agronomic properties. Water release characteristic varied with the degree of exfoliation and phase composition. Although vermiculites from Tanzania expanded on heating, their capacity to retain plant available water was relatively low as compared to vermiculite from Palabora. Disintegration on heating and the presence of a high amount of iron could be among the factors affecting their water release characteristic. Loss of hydroxyl water was higher in vermiculites than in hydrobiotites. Dehydroxylation enhanced the availability of exchangeable K+ and reduced significantly the cation exchange capacity of vermiculites. The optimum exchangeable K+ was obtained on heating at a temperature of 600 degrees C. The pH was unaffected by heating to a temperature of less than 600 degrees C. At higher temperature, the pH increased in some samples and was accompanied by substantial amounts of exchangeable Mg2+. Thus, it was concluded that initial characterization of vermiculites is essential prior to potential agricultural applications in order to optimize their agronomic potential. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-382
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Clay Science
Issue number3-4
Early online date3 Dec 2008
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


  • agronomic potential
  • Mozambique belt
  • palabora
  • Tanzania
  • vermiculite
  • clay-minerals
  • dehydration
  • exchange
  • cations
  • biottie
  • phases

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