Submitted to: Soil Health Basis for Current and Future Production
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: December 7, 1994
Publication Date: N/A
Structurally related soil physical and biological properties often change when different cropping, tillage, or management systems are imposed. Occasionally, changes occur quickly, but usually they become evident over months or years. Soil water infiltration characteristics are closely related to soil structure and often are good indictors of changes in soil physical and biological properties. The rate of water infiltration into soil can be an important indicator of the soil's ability to produce high crop yields and to withstand the forces of erosion. The rate of infiltration depends on many factors. Some factors are determined by the inherent characteristics of the soil, such as parent material, texture, and position on the landscape. Management has a large influence on the soil's ability to infiltrate water ranging from the amount of residue cover left on the field to the long-term changes in the soil's physical, chemical, and biological qualities. Large macropores formed from old factors, such as the weather, also play a significant role in determining infiltration. Thus, there are many factors that can affect the rate of infiltration, and the interactions among these factors may be complex. Generally, high infiltration is desired, but there are cases, such as with increased leaching, where too much infiltration may have detrimental consequences. To evaluate the use of infiltration for detecting changes in soil properties, we conducted infiltration tests on a cropping systems experiment, a tillage experiment, and two beef cattle grazing experiments. Infiltration differences were significant between treatments in continuous experiments after soil properties reached a new equilibria in 4 or 5 years. Differences were not measurable in short-term experiments.