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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Using High-Resolution Soil Moisture Data to Assess Soilwater Dynamics in the Vadose Zone

Authors
item Starr, James
item Timlin, Dennis

Submitted to: Vadose Zone Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 27, 2004
Publication Date: June 1, 2004
Citation: Starr, J.L., Timlin, D.J. 2004. Using High-resolution Soil Moisture Data to Assess Soilwater Dynamics in the Vadose Zone. Vadose Zone J. 3(3):926-935.

Interpretive Summary: Soil and crop management practices directly impact the properties of soil, and thereby the fate of water in soil. Water infiltration and movement in soils are highly dynamic processes, but can be estimated intensive measurements of hydrologic conditions (e.g., water content). This study was conducted to assess the seasonal effects of tillage and field sampling positions on water infiltration, storage, drainage and crop uptake from real-time and near-continuous measurements of soil water content in the soil profile. The field experiment was conducted at Beltsville, MD, on a Beltsville silt loam soil (fine-loamy, mixed, mesic Typic Fragiudult). Multisensor capacitance probes and monitoring system were installed at row and interrow positions in plow-tillage and no-tillage corn plots. Soil water content was recorded at 10-minute intervals over a 30-month period. This data set contains substantial information on detailed soil water dynamics that demonstrates strong interactive effects of rainfall amount, season, tillage, and row position. One of the surprising results was the greater water use efficiency by crops under plow-tillage compared to no-tillage. Also, row position effects dominated over tillage effects on cumulative water infiltration, net water storage, and drainage - especially in the summer. This research has implications for fertilizer placement, and tillage management effects on leaching potential and crop water use.

Technical Abstract: Soil and crop management practices directly impact the properties of soil, and thereby impacts the fate of water in soil. Water infiltration and movement in soils are highly transient processes, but can be estimated from real-time measurements of hydrologic conditions (e.g., water content). This study was conducted to assess the seasonal effects of tillage and row/interrow positions on water infiltration, storage, drainage and crop uptake from real-time and near-continuous measurements of soil water content in the soil profile. The field experiment was conducted at Beltsville, MD, on a Beltsville silt loam soil (fine-loamy, mixed, mesic Typic Fragiudult). Multisensor capacitance probes (MCP) and monitoring system were installed at row and interrow positions in plow-tillage and no-tillage corn plots. Soil water content was recorded at 10-minute intervals over a 30-month period. This data set contains substantial information on detailed soil water dynamics that demonstrates strong interactive effects of rainfall amount, season, tillage, and row position.

Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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