Estimates of tillage and rainfall effects on unsaturated hydraulic conductivity in a small central European agricultural catchment
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In arable land, topsoil is exposed to structural changes during each growing season due to agricultural management, climate, the kinetic energy of rainfall, crop and root growth. The shape, size, and spatial distributions of soil aggregates are considerably altered during the season and thus affect water infiltration and the soil moisture regime. Agricultural topsoils are prone to soil compaction and surface sealing which result in soil structure degradation and disconnection of preferential pathways. To study topsoil infiltration properties over time, near-saturated hydraulic conductivity of topsoil was repeatedly assessed in a catchment in central Bohemia (Czech Republic) during three consecutive growing seasons, using a recently developed automated tension minidisk infiltrometer (MultiDisk). Seasonal variability of soil bulk density and saturated water content was observed as topsoil consolidated between seedbed preparations. Topsoil unsaturated hydraulic conductivity was lower in spring and increased in the summer months during two seasons, and the opposite trend was observed during one season. Temporal unsaturated hydraulic conductivity variability was higher than spatial variability. Cumulative kinetic energy of rainfall, causing a seasonal decrease in soil macroporosity and unsaturated hydraulic conductivity, was not a statistically significant predictor.
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