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Soil Science Society of America Journal Abstract -

Changes in Soil Water Retention Curves Due to Tillage and Natural Reconsolidation


This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 62 No. 5, p. 1228-1233
    Received: Mar 10, 1997

    * Corresponding author(s): ahuja@gpsr.colostate.edu
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  1. L. R. Ahuja ,
  2. F. Fiedler,
  3. G. H. Dunn,
  4. J. G. Benjamin and
  5. A. Garrison
  1. USDA-ARS, Great Plains Systems Research Unit, P.O. Box E, Fort Collins, CO 80522-0470



Changes in soil water retention of the surface soil brought about by tillage can significantly alter the amount of rain water that infiltrates into the root zone and is available for plant growth. Soil tillage generally increases porosity and changes the pore-size distribution, leading to changes in the soil water retention curve and hydraulic conductivities. The objective of this study was to investigate some simple ways of estimating the soil water retention curve of a tilled soil from that of an untilled soil, knowing the change in soil porosity or bulk density due to tillage. The study of literature and empirical analysis of the available data indicated: (i) under field conditions the tillage did not significantly change the air-entry value of the soil; (ii) tillage increased the absolute value of the slope of the log-log relationship below the air-entry value; and (iii) the changes due to tillage in the retention curve occurred only in the larger pore-size range, approximately between the air-entry pressure head value and 10 times the air-entry value. Assuming these observations hold in general, two simple methods of estimating the water retention curve of a tilled soil from that of its untilled condition are proposed. The first method is a simple imposition of the Brooks and Corey function between the air-entry value and 10 times this value. The second method assumes that the change in soil water content at a given pressure head in the above range of pressure heads was inversely proportional to the value of the pressure head. The tests on four pairs of measured water retention curves on three different soils showed that these methods provided good approximations.

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