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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 32(5)

Soil attributes related to water repellency and the utility of soil survey for predicting its occurrence

RJ Harper and RJ Gilkes

Australian Journal of Soil Research 32(5) 1109 - 1124
Published: 1994


The incidence and severity of water repellency was related to five soil class (FC I-V), based on the field texture and dry consistence of the soil surface horizons, derived from a soil survey near Jerramungup, Western Australia. Water repellency was most severe on the FC I soils (median clay content 1.5%), with 66% of samples having water repellency based on the water drop penetration time (WDPT) test >10 s. Corresponding values for the FC II and III soils (2.5%, 4.0% clay) were 37% and 20%. Water repellency did not occur on the most clayey FC IV (8.1% clay) and FC V (22.1% clay) soils. Following stratification of Ap horizon soils by 1% increments of clay content, highly significant linear relationships occurred between log [water drop penetration time (WDPT)] and log [organic carbon (OC)] for the 1-2, 2-3 and 3-4% clay classes, these respectively explaining 50, 35 and 37% of the variation in water repellency. The role of organic carbon in promoting water repellency decreases markedly with increasing clay content, with WDPT being proportional to OC4.5, OC3.9 and OC3.0 for each of these clay classes. A multivariate relationship using measures of amorphous iron, clay and organic matter explained 63% of the variation in water repellency, and this multivariate dependency provides an explanation of the poor bivariate relationships between either clay or organic carbon content and water repellency reported in previous studies. There is a strong geomorphic control of the clay content in the soil surface horizons. Given the effect that clay content has on water repellency, the susceptibility of soils to water repellency can be mapped across farms, with the actual expression of water repellency depending on soil organic matter content, and hence land use. Such discrimination will allow the prediction of water erosion hazard and identify soils requiring ameliorative treatments. Keywords: Water-Repellent Soils; Soil Survey; Soil Management; Sandy Soils; Organic Matter;

Full text doi:10.1071/SR9941109

© CSIRO 1994

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