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Sprinkler Droplet Energy Effects on Infiltration and Near-Surface, Unsaturated Hydraulic Conductivity

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Pp. 283-286 in Preferential Flow, Water Movement and Chemical Transport in the Environment, Proc. 2nd Int. Symp. (3-5 January 2001, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA), eds. D. D. Bosch and K. W. King. St. Joseph, Michigan: ASAE  701P0006.(doi:10.13031/2013.2111)
Authors:   G.A. Lehrsch and D.C. Kincaid
Keywords:   Droplet Impact, Sprinkler Irrigation, Infiltration, Hydraulic Conductivity, Surface Sealing

Reducing the impact energy of sprinkler droplets through irrigation management should minimize surface soil aggregate breakdown and seal formation while maintaining infiltration rates. From 1997 through 1999 in southern Idaho, we quantified sprinkler droplet energy effects on infiltration and near-surface hydraulic conductivity measured under tension after crop stand establishment. The treatments were droplet energies: 0 or 7 J kg-1 (0 or 7 J m-2 mm-1), produced with a low-pressure, lateral-move irrigation system. After planting sugarbeet (Beta vulgaris L.) into a Portneuf silt loam (Durinodic Xeric Haplocalcid) and irrigating 2-3 times, we used tension infiltrometers to measure unconfined (three-dimensional) infiltration rates through undisturbed soil surfaces at three supply potentials. Reducing droplet energy significantly increased steady-state infiltration, averaged across years, at supply potentials of -20 and -40 mm and kept soil surfaces rougher with less aggregate breakdown. Pores with diameters between 0.75 and 1.5 mm were most affected by droplet energy.

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