Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Kimberly, Idaho » Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #256055

Title: Surfactant and Irrigation Effects on Runoff, Erosion, and Water Retention of Three Wettable Soils

item Lehrsch, Gary
item Sojka, Robert - Retired Ars Employee
item Reed, Joshua - Josh
item Henderson, R - U.s. Department Of Interior
item Kostka, S - Aquatrols Corporation Of America

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/5/2009
Publication Date: 11/1/2009
Citation: Lehrsch, G.A., Sojka, R.E., Reed, J.L., Henderson, R.A., Kostka, S.J. 2009. Surfactant and Irrigation Effects on Runoff, Erosion, and Water Retention of Three Wettable Soils [abstract]. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts [CD-ROM]. Paper No. 52815.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Surfactants are chemical compounds that change the contact angle of water on solid surfaces and are commonly used to increase infiltration into hydrophobic soil. Since production fields with water-repellent soil often contain areas of wettable soil, surfactants applied to such fields will likely be applied to wettable soil, with unknown consequences for irrigation-induced erosion, runoff, or soil water relations. We evaluated surfactant and irrigation effects on these responses for three wettable, Pacific Northwest soils, Latahco and Rad silt loams and Quincy sandy loam. We studied an alkyl polyglycoside in solution at a concentration of 18 g a.i./kg, a block copolymer at 26 g/kg, and a blend of the two at 43 g/kg. From 2005 to 2009, each surfactant was sprayed at a rate of 46.8 L/ha onto each soil packed into steel boxes. Thereafter, each soil was irrigated twice with surfactant–free, well water. Runoff and sediment loss were measured and soil samples were collected after each irrigation. While measured properties differed among soils and irrigations, surfactants had no effect on runoff, sediment loss, splash loss, time to runoff, or tension infiltration, compared to controls. Across all soils, however, the alkyl polyglycoside increased volumetric water contents by about 3% (significant at P less than or equal to 0.08) at matric potentials from 0 to -20 kPa, compared to controls. With the liquid-solid contact angle decreased on treated soil, surfactant–free water entered, and was retained in pores with diameters greater than or equal to 15 microns. Surfactants applied at economic rates to these wettable soils posed little risk of increasing either runoff or erosion or harming soil water relations. Moreover, by increasing water retention in wettable soils, surfactants may allow water containing pesticides or other agricultural chemicals to better penetrate soil pores, thereby increasing the efficacy of the co-applied materials.