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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: IMPROVED WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT FOR IRRIGATED AGRICULTURE IN THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST

Location: Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research

Title: Transient soil surface sealing and infiltration model for bare soil under droplet impact

Authors
item King, Bradley
item Bjorneberg, David

Submitted to: Transactions of the ASABE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 28, 2012
Publication Date: July 9, 2012
Citation: King, B.A., Bjorneberg, D.L. 2012. Transient soil surface sealing and infiltration model for bare soil under droplet impact. Transactions of the ASABE. 55(3):937-945.

Interpretive Summary: The marked reduction in infiltration rate caused by formation of a soil surface seal due to water droplet impact on bare soil is a well known phenomenon but is rarely considered in infiltration models, especially under center pivot irrigation. The objective of this study was to develop a sealing soil infiltration model that considers transient soil seal formation on a 30 min or less time scale and can potentially be applied to center pivot sprinkler irrigation systems. A sealing soil infiltration model was developed using an explicit finite difference solution scheme with a transient soil seal formation model, which is unique from other studies in that it explicitly uses droplet specific power as the driving factor for formation of a soil surface seal. The model was applied to published runoff data from two rainfall simulation studies with varying droplet kinetic energies and application rates on three soils. The sealing soil infiltration model represented measured infiltration rates very well for all rainfall simulator tests. Application of the model to center pivot irrigation will require the development of a model for estimating droplet specific power and application rate profiles from center pivot sprinklers for a range of sprinkler designs, flow rates, operating pressures, spacing and height.

Technical Abstract: The marked reduction in infiltration rate caused by formation of a soil surface seal due to water droplet impact on bare soil is a well known phenomenon but is rarely considered in infiltration models, especially under center pivot irrigation. Water application rates under center pivot irrigation commonly exceed infiltration rate, especially near the end of the system lateral. This can lead to off-site runoff and erosion, but more importantly results in field-scale non-uniform water infiltration that can substantially reduce water use efficiency of these irrigation systems. The objective of this study was to develop a sealing soil infiltration model that considers transient soil seal formation on a 30 min or less time scale and can potentially be applied to center pivot sprinkler irrigation systems. A sealing soil infiltration model was developed using an explicit finite difference solution scheme with a transient soil seal formation model, which is unique from other studies in that it explicitly uses droplet specific power as the driving factor for formation of a soil surface seal. The form of the transient seal formation model is also unique in that it is expressed as a rational function of specific power rather than an exponential decay function of droplet kinetic energy. The model was applied to published runoff data from two rainfall simulation studies with varying droplet kinetic energies and application rates on three soils. The sealing soil infiltration model represented measured infiltration rates very well for all rainfall simulator tests. The transient soil seal formation model uses three parameters, one of which is an empirical parameter representing the susceptibility of the soil to aggregate breakdown that was constant for a given soil. A second model parameter, final saturated hydraulic conductivity of the surface seal, was well correlated to droplet specific power for a given soil. Application of the model to center pivot irrigation will require the development of a model for estimating droplet specific power and application rate profiles from center pivot sprinklers for a range of sprinkler designs, flow rates, operating pressures, spacing and height.

Last Modified: 4/18/2014