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Field method for separating the contribution of surface-connected preferential flow pathways from flow through the soil matrix Public Deposited

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  • Liquid latex was used as a method to seal visible surface-connected preferential flow pathways (PFPs) in the field in an effort to block large surface-connected preferential flow and force water to move through the soil matrix. The proposed approach allows for the quantification of the contribution of large surface-connected cracks and biological pores to infiltration at various soil moisture states. Experiments were conducted in a silty clay loam soil in a field under a no-till corn-soybean rotation planted to corn. Surface intake rates under ponding were measured using a simplified falling head technique under two scenarios: (1) natural soil conditions with unaltered PFPs and (2) similar soil conditions with latex-sealed large macropores at the surface. Results indicated that the contribution of flow from large surface-connected macropores to overall surface intake rates varied from approximately 34% to 99% depending on the initial moisture content and macroporosity present. However, evidence of preferential flow continued to appear in latex-sealed plots, suggesting significant contributions to preferential flow from smaller structural macropores, particularly in two out of four tests where no significant differences were observed between control and latex-sealed plots.
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  • Sanders, E. C., M. R. Abou Najm, R. H. Mohtar, E. Kladivko, and D. Schulze (2012), Field method for separating the contribution of surface-connected preferential flow pathways from flow through the soil matrix, Water Resources Research, 48, W04534, doi:10.1029/2011WR011103.
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  • Support for the second author on this research was provided by the National Science Foundation under grant 0943682.
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