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Predicting soil workability and fragmentation in tillage: a review

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Soil workability and friability are required parameters to consider when creating suitable seedbeds for
crop establishment and growth. Knowledge of soil workability is important for scheduling tillage
operations and for reducing the risk of tillage-induced structural degradation of soils. A reliable
evaluation of soil workability implies a distinctive definition of the critical water content (wet and dry
limits) for tillage. In this review, we provide a comprehensive assessment of the methods for
determining soil workability, and the effects of soil properties and tillage systems on soil workability
and fragmentation. The strengths and limitations of the different methods for evaluating the water
content for soil workability, such as the plastic limit, soil water retention curve (SWRC), standard
Proctor compaction test, field assessment, moisture-pressure-volume diagram, air permeability and
drop-shatter tests are discussed. Our review reveals that there is limited information on the dry limit
and the range of water content for soil workability for different textured soils. We identify the need
for further research to evaluate soil workability on undisturbed soils using a combination of SWRC
and the drop-shatter tests or tensile strength; (i) to quantify the effects of soil texture, organic matter
and compaction on soil workability; and (ii) to compare soil water content for workability in the field
with theoretical soil workability, thereby improving the prediction of soil workability as part of a
decision support system for tillage operations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSoil Use and Management
Pages (from-to)288-298
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Research areas

  • Wet tillage limit, dry tillage limit, plastic limit, soil properties, soil water retention curve, tillage systems

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