Soil Research Soil Research Society
Soil, land care and environmental research

Variability of soil water content and bulk density in a sugarcane field

T. T. Tominaga, F. A. M. Cássaro, O. O. S. Bacchi, K. Reichardt, J. C. M. Oliveira and L. C. Timm

Australian Journal of Soil Research 40(4) 604 - 614
Published: 14 June 2002


The change in management practices of the sugarcane crop in Brazil, from the traditional trash burning before harvest to the new practice that leaves harvest residues on the field after harvest, can lead to alterations in the water regime and also in soil compaction levels. In this study a neutron-gamma surface gauge was used to monitor spatial and temporal variabilities of soil moisture and density in a experimental sugarcane area submitted to 3 harvest management practices: (i) mulched crop with harvest residues, (ii) crop with bare inter-row, and (iii) crop with ash residues from trash burning before harvest. Variability of soil water content and bulk density was studied using geostatistical tools and analysis of variance was used to compare averages. Autocorrelations and semivariograms indicate a spatial dependence of soil water contents, which were higher in the presence of trash residues left on the soil surface after harvest. The average difference between treatments (i) and (ii) was about of 15%, indicating the beneficial mulching effect with respect to soil water retention. Differences between (ii) and (iii) were much smaller.

Keywords: gamma-ray attenuation, surface neutron-gamma probe, sugarcane, mulch.

© CSIRO 2002

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