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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVED KNOWLEDGE AND MODELING OF WATER FLOW AND CHEMICAL TRANSPORT PROCESSES IN IRRIGATED SOILS Title: Comparison of Measured and Simulated Water Storage in Dryland Terraces of the Loess Plateau, China

Authors
item Lu, Haishen - HOHAI UNIVERSITY
item Zhu, Yonghua - HOHAI UNIVERSITY
item Skaggs, Todd
item Yu, Zhongbo - HOHAI UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: Agricultural Water Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 31, 2008
Publication Date: October 9, 2008
Repository URL: http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/53102000/pdf_pubs/P2233.pdf
Citation: Lu, H., Zhu, Y., Skaggs, T.H., Yu, Z. 2008. Comparison of Measured and Simulated Water Storage in Dryland Terraces of the Loess Plateau, China. Agricultural Water Management. 96(2):299-306.

Interpretive Summary: In the mountainous regions of China, developing sustainable agriculture requires implementing conservation management practices that prevent soil erosion and conserve soil and water resources. In the semiarid northwest Loess Plateau, the primary conservation management practice is terracing, which involves the conversion of sloping land into a sequence of “stepped” level surfaces. Terracing increases rainfall infiltration and reduces erosion. Guidelines for terrace construction typically take into consideration landscape parameters such as the slope the land and the depth of the soil. In dryland agricultural areas, capturing and retaining water in soil is critically important, and conceivably terrace guidelines for these areas could additionally include consideration of the effects of terrace design on water storage. Computer simulation of soil water dynamics is potentially an efficient means of investigating terrace design and moisture retention, but little information is available on the accuracy of such simulations. In this work, we compared simulated terrace water distributions with those measured in the field and found that the simulations were satisfactorily accurate. As part of the simulation analysis, we quantified potential evaporative water losses and made some suggestions for future terrace design. This research will assist those working to improve and implement conservation management practices

Technical Abstract: In the mountainous regions of China, developing sustainable agriculture requires implementing conservation management practices that prevent soil erosion and conserve soil and water resources. In the semiarid northwest Loess Plateau, the primary conservation management practice is terracing, which increases rainfall infiltration and reduces erosion. Guidelines for terrace construction typically take into consideration landscape parameters such as the slope the land and the depth of the soil. In dryland agricultural areas, capturing and retaining water in soil is critically important, and conceivably terrace guidelines for these areas could additionally include consideration of the effects of terrace design on water storage. Numerical simulation of soil water dynamics is potentially an efficient means of investigating terrace design and moisture retention, but little information is available on the accuracy of such simulations. In this work, we evaluated the accuracy of HYDRUS-2D simulations of water infiltration and redistribution in fallow, level, dryland terraces located in the Loess Plateau. The simulated soil water content distributions were found to be in good agreement with experimental data. Modeling analyses showed that about one-third of the evaporative water losses from the terrace occurred from the riser (side-slope) surface. To prevent such losses, it is advisable to mulch the riser, and perhaps design the terrace so as to minimize the riser surface area. Wide terraces store more water than narrow ones, and with other design considerations being equal, wide beds and minimal riser surface areas will likely enhance water capture and retention. More general analyses of terrace moisture dynamics will require implementing the root growth and water uptake modules contained in HYDRUS-2D, as well as coupling HYDRUS-2D with an overland flow model to account for ponding and runoff.

Last Modified: 9/21/2014
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