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A Simple Nearest-Neighbor Technique to Predict the Soil Water Retention Curve

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

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 58(3): 697-705. (doi: 10.13031/trans.58.10990) @2015
Authors:   Amir Haghverdi, Brian G. Leib, Wim M. Cornelis
Keywords:   k Nearest neighbors, Pedotransfer function, UNSODA, Water retention curve.

Abstract. Knowing the soil water retention curve (WRC) is essential for analyzing soil hydraulic behavior within the vadose zone. The van Genuchten (VG) soil hydraulic equation is one of the most frequently adopted models to parameterize the WRC. Some measured water retention points are needed to fit the VG model, but direct measurement of water content versus matric potential is expensive and time consuming. A pedotransfer function (PTF) enables indirect determination of a WRC from basic soil information. The typical method employed to derive a PTF using the VG model (VG-PTF) is to establish a mathematical relationship between the parameters of the VG model and basic soil data. However, both establishing and reusing a VG-PTF for new soils are challenging due to several reasons, such as over-parameterization, low correlation between basic soil data and VG parameters, and interdependency among parameters. In this study, a nonparametric approach based on the k nearest neighbor technique was designed and tested to establish a VG-PTF. A subset of soils from the UNSODA database (n = 554)) and a data set from Belgium (n = 69) were used as the model development and validation data sets, respectively. The proposed PTF showed reasonable accuracy and reliability and was comparable to well-known parametric VG-PTFs available in the literature.

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