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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Persistence of Soil Structural Modifications Along a Historic Wagon Trail


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 62 No. 3, p. 774-777
    Received: Feb 10, 1997

    * Corresponding author(s): bsharratt@mail.mrsars.usda.gov
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  1. B. Sharratt ,
  2. W. Voorhees,
  3. G. McIntosh and
  4. G. Lemme
  1. USDA-ARS North Central Soil Conservation Research Lab
    Univ. of Minnesota, Morris, MN 56267



Wagon wheel ruts are still visible along pioneer trails in the USA, which suggests that vehicular traffic can modify soil properties for a century. We compared physical properties of a Barnes loam (fine-loamy, mixed Udic Haploboroll) across three transects of the 1864 to 1871 Wadsworth Trail. Compaction was evident within wheel ruts of the trail, as penetration resistance and bulk density were 10% greater and water infiltration and air permeability were 50% lower within the wheel ruts than outside the trail. Erosion was also apparent within the wheel ruts, as the greater density could not fully account for the thinner A horizon (60 mm). Our investigation suggests that degradation of soil properties caused by compaction or erosion from wagon wheel or animal traffic may persist for >100 yr. This information underscores the importance that agricultural practices must minimize soil loss or compaction.

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