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Dynamics of soil hydraulic properties during fallow as affected by tillage

AuthorsMoret-Fernández, David ; Arrúe Ugarte, José Luis
KeywordsTillage management
Hydraulic conductivity
Fallow period
Issue Date8-Jun-2007
CitationSoil and Tillage Research, Volume 96, Issues 1-2, October 2007, Pages 103-113
AbstractThere is limited information on the effects of tillage practices on soil hydraulic properties, especially changes with time. The objective of this study was to evaluate on a long-term field experiment the influence of conventional tillage (CT), reduced tillage (RT) and no-tillage (NT) on the dynamics of soil hydraulic properties over 3 consecutive 16–18 month fallow periods. Surface measurements of soil dry bulk density (ρb), soil hydraulic conductivity (K(ψ)) at −14, −4, −1 and 0 cm pressure heads using a tension disc infiltrometer, and derived hydraulic parameters (pore size, number of pores per unit of area and water-transmission porosity) calculated using the Poiseuille's Law were taken on four different dates over the fallow period, namely, before and immediately after primary tillage, after post-tillage rains and at the end of fallow. Under consolidated structured soil conditions, NT plots presented the most compacted topsoil layer when compared with CT and RT. Soil hydraulic conductivity under NT was, for the entire range of pressure head applied, significantly lower (P < 0.05) than that measured for CT and RT. However, NT showed the largest mean macropore size (0.99, 0.95 and 2.08 mm for CT, RT and NT, respectively; P < 0.05) but the significantly lowest number of water-conducting pores per unit area (74.1, 118.5 and 1.4 macropores per m2 for CT, RT and NT, respectively; P < 0.05). Overall, water flow was mainly regulated by macropores even though they represented a small fraction of total soil porosity. No significant differences in hydraulic properties were found between CT and RT. In the short term, tillage operations significantly increased K (P < 0.05) for the entire range of pressure head applied, which was likely a result of an increase in water-conducting mesopores despite a decrease in estimated mesopore diameter. Soil reconsolidation following post-tillage rains reduced K at a rate that increased with the intensity of the rainfall events.
DescriptionThe definitive version is available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/01671987
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