Campus Units


Document Type


Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Soil and Tillage Research



First Page


Last Page





Soil bulk density (ρb) may be purposely reduced in agricultural fields using tillage to improve hydraulic properties. However, tillage alters the soil structure, resulting in unstable soils. As the soil stabilizes, ρb increases over time. While this is known, studies on soil hydraulic properties in tilled soils, including comparisons between tilled and non-tilled soils, commonly assume a rigid soil structure. This study presents changes in soil water retention and saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat) as ρb increased dynamically with time following tillage at a loam-textured field site. Over the summer of 2015, soil cores were collected at several depths below the surface following precipitation events. Soil water retention curves and Ksat were determined using pressure cells and the constant head method, respectively. Tillage reduced ρb to 0.94 g cm−3. Changes in ρb increased with depth, reaching a ρb of 1.11 g cm−3 in the 0–5 cm layer, and a ρb of 1.42 g cm−3 at the deepest tilled layer. Soil water retention curves were markedly steeper for samples with higher ρb, indicating an overall increase in water retained at a soil matric potential (Ψ) of −33 kPa. Evaluation of two modeling approaches for water retention as a function ρbindicated that changes in water retention with increases in ρb could be reasonably estimated if a matching point was used. No clear relationship between Ksat and ρbwas obvious for ρb < 1.06 cm3 cm−3, but for ρb > 1.06 cm3 cm−3, Ksat decreased markedly (order of magnitude) as ρb increased. Hydraulic properties varied strongly depending on time since tillage and soil depth, and results have implications for models of tilled soils, as well as for studies comparing tilled and non-tilled soils.


This article is published as Kool, D., B. Tong, Z. Tian, J. L. Heitman, T. J. Sauer, and R. Horton. "Soil water retention and hydraulic conductivity dynamics following tillage." Soil and Tillage Research 193 (2019): 95-100. doi: 10.1016/j.still.2019.05.020.


Works produced by employees of the U.S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U.S. The content of this document is not copyrighted.



File Format