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Different Management Practices Influence Soil Water Infiltration Types

Oct 25, 2016     Email"> PrintText Size

Different management practices would influence soil water flow behavior differently because of the variations in soil structure and porosity. To ensure sustainable development in agriculture and to maintain ecological environment security, different management practices have been adopted. However, the soil water infiltration types under different management practices were still unclear.

Researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Shanxi University conducted a study in the Shi Zuitou county of Shanxi Province to assess the effect of different management practices on the water flow behavior of soil.

They used an uncultivated land as the reference and selected three soil plots with different tillage regimes as the management practices. A traditional method involving a dye tracer was conducted on these four soil plots.

The researchers firstly analyzed the water losing capacity and associated soil physical properties among the four plots (uncultivated; alfalfa filed; maize filed; and maize with conservation tillage). They then interpreted the soil water flow behaviors from the classified dye-stained patterns.

They found that the different management practices firstly affected the soil physical properties and improved the soil water storage capacity on the shallow soil (i.e., 0–15 cm), and then altered the infiltration behavior as illustrated by the dye stain characteristics.

Management practices not only influenced the soil physical properties (e.g., initial gravimetric water content, total porosity), but also had different effects on water flow behavior.

They further found that preferential flow was triggered by wetting front instabilities in the uncultivated land and was generally confined to the upper 15 cm of the soil profile. Highly continuous preferential flow was resulted from presence of preferential paths (i.e., alfalfa taproot) in the alfalfa field.

The macropore flow was confined into two isolated patches, and became the dominant flow behavior in the conventional tillage field. Conservation tillage systems shaped the preferential flow into an inverted triangular distribution.

The study entitled “Effects of different management practices on vertical soil water flow patterns in the Loess Plateau” has been published online in Soil and Tillage Research.

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(Editor: ZHANG Nannan)

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