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Obtaining soil hydraulic properties for water balance and leaching models from survey data. 2. Hydraulic conductivity

K. R. J. Smettem and K. L. Bristow

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 50(7) 1259 - 1262
Published: 1999


Regional scale application of water and solute transport models is often limited by the lack of available data describing soil hydraulic properties and their variability. Direct measurement over large areas is expensive and time consuming. Physico-empirical models derived from soil survey data are therefore an attractive alternative. If the Marshall method of estimating the saturated hydraulic conductivity is simplified to depend primarily on the maximum pore radius, given by the bubbling pressure, then it is equivalent to the Campbell model of saturated hydraulic conductivity which relies entirely on an estimate of the bubbling pressure obtained from particle size data. We apply this simplified physico-empirical model to estimate the ‘matrix’, or textural saturated hydraulic conductivity, K m, using estimates of the bubbling pressure derived entirely from clay content data that are readily available in soil surveys. Model estimates are compared with in situ measurements on surface soils obtained using a disc permeameter with a negative pressure head at the supply surface of 40 mm. Results appear to be satisfactory for broad-scale water balance and leaching risk models that require specification of a matching point for the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity function and for modelling applications requiring generalised application of results from experimental sites.

Keywords: matrix hydraulic conductivity, matching point.

© CSIRO 1999

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