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Spatial analysis of soil surface hydraulic properties: Is infiltration method dependent?

Abstract : The management of irrigated agricultural fields requires reliable information about soil hydraulic properties and their spatio-temporal variability. The spatial variability of saturated hydraulic conductivity, Ks and the alpha-parameter αvG-2007 of the van Genuchten equation was reviewed on an agricultural loamy soil after a 17-year period of repeated conventional agricultural practices for tillage and planting. The Beerkan infiltration method and its algorithm BEST were used to characterize the soil through the van Genuchten and Brooks and Corey equations. Forty field measurements were made at each node of a 6 m × 7.5 m grid. The soil hydraulic properties and their spatial structure were compared to those recorded in 1990 on the same field soil, through the exponential form of the soil hydraulic conductivity given by the Gardner equation, using the Guelph Pressure Infiltrometer technique. No significant differences in the results obtained in 1990 and 2007 were observed for either particle-size distribution or dry bulk density. The mean value of αvG-2007 was found to be identical to that of αG-1990, while that of Ks-2007 was significantly smaller than that of Ks-1990. In contrast to the Gardner equation, the van Genuchten/Brooks and Corey expression was found to be more representative of a well-graded particle-size distribution of a loamy soil. The geostatistical analysis showed the two parameters, Ks and αvG-2007, were autocorrelated up to about 30 and 21 m, respectively, as well as spatially positively correlated within a range of 30 m. Despite the difference in the mean values of Ks between the two studies, the spatial structures were similar to those found in the 1990 experiment except for the covariance sign. The similarity in autocorrelation ranges indicate that the spatial analysis of soil hydraulic properties is independent of the infiltration methods (i.e., measurement of an infiltration flux) used in the two studies, while the difference in the covariance sign may be linked to the use of two different techniques of soil hydraulic parameterization. The covariance values found in the 2007 campaign indicates a positive relationship between the two parameters, Ks and αvG-2007. The spatial correlations of soil hydraulic parameters appear to be temporally stabilized, at least within the agro-pedo-climatic context of the study. This may be attributed to the soil textural properties which remain constant in time and to the structural properties which are constantly renewed by the cyclic agricultural practices. However, further experiments are needed to strengthen this result.
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I. Mubarak, R. Angulo-Jaramillo, J.C. Mailhol, P. Ruelle, M.R. Khaledian, et al.. Spatial analysis of soil surface hydraulic properties: Is infiltration method dependent?. Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier Masson, 2010, 97 (10), pp.1517-1526. ⟨10.1016/j.agwat.2010.05.005⟩. ⟨insu-00564021⟩

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