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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Influence of the wetting process on estimation of the water-retention curve of tilled soils

D. Moret-Fernández A B , C. Peña-Sancho A and M. V. López A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Departamento de Suelo y Agua, Estación Experimental de Aula Dei, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), PO Box 202, 50080 Zaragoza, Spain.

B Corresponding author. Email: david@eead.csic.es

Soil Research 54(7) 840-846 https://doi.org/10.1071/SR15274
Submitted: 21 September 2015  Accepted: 12 December 2015   Published: 15 August 2016

Abstract

Correct estimation of the soil-water retention curve (WRC) is of paramount importance to characterise the hydraulic behaviour of soils. This paper studies the influence of two different soil-wetting processes (waterlogging soil, WP; capillary rise to saturation, CRP) on the estimate of the WRC. The two procedures were applied on undisturbed loam soil samples with three degrees of soil structure: (i) consolidated soils under conventional tillage (CT), reduced tillage (RT) and no tillage (NT); (ii) freshly tilled soil under CT and RT; and (iii) CT and RT after secondary tillage plus some intense rainfalls events. WRCs were estimated with time-domain reflectometry (TDR) pressure cells and volumetric water content was measured at saturation conditions (for the WP method) and at pressure heads of 0.5, 1.5, 3, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1500 kPa. The same cores were used to determine the soil bulk density (ρb), which was subsequently used to estimate the saturated water content under CRP. The ρb value of the consolidated soil under NT was significantly higher (P < 0.001) than under CT and RT. No effect of the wetting process on the WRC of consolidated soils was observed. Only the freshly tilled soil samples under RT were significantly affected by the wetting process. In these cases, the water draining after WP collapsed the more unstable soil macropores and increased the volume of the smaller ones. However, this effect was minimised by the CRP method, which prevented the collapse of the more unstable soil pores. This work demonstrates that the soil-wetting process may have an important effect on the characterisation of the water-holding capacity on freshly tilled soils.

Additional keywords: hydraulic properties, undisturbed soil samples, water holding capacity.


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