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Effect of soil loosening on the hydraulic properties of a duplex soil

NS Jayawardane and SA Prathapar

Australian Journal of Soil Research 30(6) 959 - 975
Published: 1992


In a duplex, transitional red-brown earth, the relationships between hydraulic conductivity K, diffusivity D, soil water potential (Ø) and volumetric water content (è) in different soil layers were evaluated. Changes in these relationships and in the derived parameters; macroscopic capillary length and characteristic microscopic pore radius due to soil loosening were examined. Replicated large undisturbed and repacked cores of 0.75 m diameter and 1.35 m deep, located in a lysimeter, were used in this study. The K- Ø relationships were measured during steady upward flow from a watertable at different depths. The Ø è relationships were measured during a soil drying cycle. The undisturbed soil showed similar soil water characteristics (Ø-è curves) in all soil layers, at depths greater than 0.25 m. In contrast, K at high Ø was significantly lower in the upper subsoil, 'throttle' layer with high clay content, compared with the deeper soil layers. However, previous studies on a similar soil have also shown that factors other than pore size distribution, such as tortuosity and pore connectivity, markedly influence the hydraulic conductivity properties of clay soils. Coefficients in the log Ø on logè and in the log K(Ø) on log Ø relationships for all soil layers combined differed markedly from the coefficients for individual layers, indicating the need to measure these properties separately for different subsoil clay layers of this duplex soil. The repacking of the soil to a lower bulk density caused an increase in K at high Ø values. This was accompanied by a significant decrease in slope of the log Ø -log è relationship, from 17-21 to around 7, in the subsoil layers. The slope of the regression of log Ø - K(è) on logè changed from 24 in undisturbed soil to 9 in the repacked soil. This was mainly due to large changes in the Ø -èrelationship, in combination with smaller changes in the K- Ø relationship. The decrease in diffusivity D with reduction in 0 was less marked in the repacked soil compared with the undisturbed soil. Thus, soil repacking shifted D(è) towards a constant value, for the range of è measured. This was mainly due to a slower rate of change in K with decrease in è on the repacked soil, combined with a compensating increase in d Ø /dè values. The calculated values of macroscopic capillary length decreased and characteristic pore radius increased, reflecting the changes in pore sizes and hydraulic conductivities due to soil loosening. However, at any given supply and antecedent Ø, the sorptivity was greater in the loosened soil due to larger changes in water content and hydraulic conductivities. The potential application of these soil properties in evaluating water flow in undisturbed or loosened soils is briefly discussed.

Keywords: Hydraulic Properties; Soil Loosening; Duplex Soil; Soil Water Characteristic; Unsaturated Hydraulic Conductivity;

© CSIRO 1992

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