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Mathieu Lamandé

Pore structure characteristics and soil workability along a clay gradient

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  • Peter Bilson Obour
  • ,
  • Thomas Keller, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Natural Resources and Agriculture, Agroscope Research Station, Zurich
  • ,
  • Mathieu Lamandé
  • Lars J. Munkholm

Clay is a basic soil constituent that governs many soil properties including pore characteristics, which in turn control a range of crucial soil properties and functions. This study explored the relationships between aggregate strength and soil pore structure characteristics for a range of clay contents along a natural gradient, and investigated the influence of clay content and matric potential on soil workability. Soil samples (100 cm3 soil cores and bulk soil) were sampled from the 5–15 cm depth in four locations in an arable field near Lerbjerg, Denmark, which ranged in clay content from 0.119 to 0.446 kg kg−1. The soil cores were drained to five matric potentials in the range −10 to −1000 hPa to obtain volumetric water content and air-filled porosity (εa). We measured air permeability and gas diffusivity and calculated tortuosity (τ) and pore organization at −100 hPa. Soil aggregates were obtained from the bulk soil and their tensile strength (Y) and specific rupture energy (Esp) were determined at −100, −300, −1000 hPa and at air-dry state. Y and Esp increased with decreasing matric potential and with increasing clay content, which consequently affected soil workability. εa at −100 hPa or air-filled macroporosity were negatively related to Y and Esp, and positively to the range of water contents for tillage (ΔθRANGE). This indicates the importance of air-filled macroporosity for soil crumbling during tillage. The findings of the study suggest that management practices that increase soil macroporosity can potentially decrease aggregate strength and increase ΔθRANGE and hence improve soil workability. We suggest that in fields with highly variable soils operations should be scheduled at periods when the range of water contents for tillage are suitable for the whole field to reduce the risk of soil structural damage induced by tillage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1186-1195
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

    Research areas

  • Soil friability, Specific rupture energy, Tensile strength, Water contents for tillage

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