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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Simple Field Methods for Estimating Soil Hydraulic Conductivity1


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 44 No. 1, p. 3-7
    Received: July 23, 1979
    Accepted: Aug 28, 1979

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  1. P. L. Libardi,
  2. K. Reichardt,
  3. D. R. Nielsen and
  4. J. W. Biggar2



Soil water content profiles monitored as a function of time following steady-state infiltration conditions in a field soil provide the only data necessary to estimate the soil hydraulic conductivity as a function of soil water content. For two proposed methods, it is assumed that water redistributes only in response to the gravitational field and that the hydraulic conductivity is an exponential function of soil water content. Experiments were conducted on three fallow field soils covered with plastic to prevent evaporation and sampled to depths of nearly 2 m. Values of hydraulic conductivity calculated by both the two proposed methods as well as by a third recently reported method were compared with those calculated by integrating Richards' equation without simplifying assumptions. Although the above comparisons at given sites within a field revealed that the three methods may sometimes yield poor estimates of the hydraulic conductivity, distributions of observed values averaged over the entire field were statistically comparable for 20 observations. It is concluded that a greater number of observations made possible by simplifying assumptions, and hence, less instrumentation and cost, is preferable to fewer observations with more exact methods that are not as amenable to statistical analyses over larger land areas.

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