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Estimates of effective rooting depth for predicting available water capacity of burdekin soils, Queensland

DE Baker and CR Ahern

Australian Journal of Soil Research 27(2) 439 - 454
Published: 1989


Estimates of rooting depth are necessary parameters in predicting available water capacity (AWC) of soils. In a recently assembled database for the Burdekin River Irrigation Area, no single criterion, commonly used to estimate rooting depth, was available for all sites. Therefore a number of methods of estimating rooting depth which give interchangeable results were required. This paper compares eight methods of estimating rooting depth within three AWC models and compares the outcome with field determinations. Soil properties used to estimate rooting depth were laboratory-based (two chloride methods, electrical conductivity and pH), morphological (carbonate and mottling) and two fixed depths (0.9 and 1.0 m). For all soils tested, the laboratory-based methods used within one AWC model (based on regression equations by using -1500 kPa water retained) resulted in predicted AWC values not significantly different (P< 0.05) from field measurements. The suitability of mottling was limited to cracking clays and sodic duplex soils and other rooting depth methods had varying applicability depending on soil type. This work shows that a range of rooting depth methods can be used to predict AWC of Burdekin soils. The results should have application to soils of other areas.

© CSIRO 1989

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