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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Preferential Flow Through Soil
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Through the work of classical soil physicists, water movement through soils was widely believed to be uniform with  a wetting front at the lead edge of the infiltrating water. This could be shown when the soils consisted of material of uniform particle size. In the natural environment, soils with such uniformity of particle size are rare. In the natural setting, preferential flow paths, e.g., cracks, old root channels, and earthworm burrows, are prevalent. Because of preferential flow, water can move through soil much more quickly than would be predicted by uniform movement theory. At the NAEW, considerable research has been conducted on the movement of water and chemicals through earthworm burrows and other preferential flow paths in field studies, with lysimeters, and in the laboratory setting. The Coshocton work has been a major contribution to the wide acceptance that preferential flow paths have great importance in water movement through soils.

Last Modified: 10/16/2005
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