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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Estimating Preferential Infiltration and Redistribution from Real-Time Measurements of Soil Water Content

Authors
item Starr, James
item Timlin, Dennis

Submitted to: International Symposium on Preferential Flow
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: August 24, 2000
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Infiltration and flow of water in soils are highly transient processes, but can be estimated from real-time measurements of the amount of water or moisture in the soil, i.e., the water content. Soil and crop management practices, such as interrows, can impact water infiltration and redistribution resulting in preferential water flow patterns. The purpose of this paper is to assess the capability of measuring preferential flow using near-continuous measurements of soil water content and the associated water data from a nearby climate station. Near continuous measurements were obtained using multisensor capacitance probes connected to a monitoring system. The probes were installed in corn plots to assess year-round variation in these processes. Observations were related to changing soil, crop, rainfall, and antecedent water conditions. Soil water content and redistribution data were collected at 10 minute intervals over a three-year rperiod.

Technical Abstract: Preferential infiltration and flow of water in soils are highly transient processes, but can be estimated from real-time measurements of hydrologic conditions (e.g., water content). Soil and crop management factors can impact water infiltration and redistribution resulting in preferential water flow. The purpose of this paper is to assess the capability of measuring preferential flow from near-continuous measurements of soil wate content profiles and the associated water inputs at a nearby climate station. Multisensor capacitance probes (MCP) and a monitoring system were installed in maize plots to assess year-round variation in these processes, and to relate observations to changing soil, crop, rainfall, and antecedent water conditions. The MCP provided for collection of near- continuous measurements (10 minute intervals over a three-year period) on soil water storage and redistribution. This study focused on soil water content changes shortly before, during, and shortly after rainfall t estimate water infiltration and redistribution. Results showed that nearly 60% of all measured events were indicative of preferential flow, and that on averaged preferential flow occured more in no-till than in plow-till corn.

Last Modified: 12/25/2014
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