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Water repellency, near-saturated infiltration and preferential solute transport in a macroporous clay soil

Jarvis N, Etana A, Stagnitti F


Little attention has been paid to the possibility that soil water repellency could enhance non-equilibrium water flow and solute transport through macropores present in structured clay soils. In this study, we measured infiltration and solute transport in a clay soil under near-saturated conditions in both the field using tension infiltrometers and in the laboratory on undisturbed soil columns. Measurements were made on adjacent plots under grass and continuous arable cultivation. Steady-state field infiltration rates measured using water and ethanol as the infiltrating fluids demonstrated that the soil macroporosity under grass was better developed, but that much of the structural pore system was inactive due to water repellency. No water repellency was detected on the arable plot disturbed by tillage. Dye tracing showed that the conducting macroporosity was largely comprised of earthworm channels in the grassed plot and inter-aggregate voids resulting from ploughing in the arable plot. Tracer breakthrough curves measured on field-dry soil indicated rapid macropore transport in columns taken from both plots, although the degree of non-equilibrium transport appeared somewhat stronger under grass. This result, which was attributed to water repellency, was also consistent with the larger flow-weighted mean pore size found in the field infiltration experiments. It is concluded that water repellency in undisturbed structured clay soils can have significant effects on the occurrence of non-equilibrium water and solute transport in macropores. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved

Publicerad i

2008, Volym: 143, nummer: 3-4, sidor: 223-230 Utgivare: ELSEVIER SCIENCE BV