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Impact of Soil Amendments on the Hydraulic Conductivity of Boreal Agricultural Podzols

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

Dinushika Wanniarachchi, Mumtaz Cheema, Raymond Thomas, Vanessa Kavanagh and Lakshman Galagedara*

Agriculture 2019, 9(6), 133;

Figure 3. Soil moisture release curves developed for IN, IN+BC, IN+DM1, and IN+BC+DM1 treatments. IN: Inorganic nitrogen; DM1: Dairy manure 1; BC: Biochar.


Hydraulic properties of soil are the basis for understanding the flow and transport through the vadose zone. It has been demonstrated that different soil amendments can alter the soil properties affecting soil hydrology. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of soil amendments on hydraulic conductivity (K) of a loamy sand podzolic soil under both unsaturated (Kunsat) and near-saturated (near Ksat) conditions in an agricultural setting. A field experiment was conducted with two common soil amendments: Dairy manure (DM) in 2016 and 2017 and biochar (BC) once only in 2016. DM and BC were incorporated up to a depth of 0.15–0.20 m at a rate of 30,000 L ha−1 and 20 Mg ha−1, respectively. A randomized complete block experimental design was used and the plots planted with silage corn (Zea mays L.) without irrigation. The treatments were: Control without amendment (0N), inorganic N fertilizer (IN), two types of DM (IN+DM1 and IN+DM2), and two treatments with BC (IN+BC and IN+DM1+BC). Infiltration data were collected using a mini disk infiltrometer under three tension levels in which −0.04 and −0.02 m was ascribed as unsaturated (at the wet end) and −0.001 m as near-saturated condition. Based on the measured infiltration rates, Kunsat and near Ksat hydraulic conductivities were calculated. There were no significant effects of DM and BC on bulk density and near Ksat. Treatments IN+DM1, IN+DM2, and IN+DM1+BC significantly reduced the Kunsat compared to the control. Since these soil amendments can influence soil hydrology such as reduced infiltration and increased surface runoff, carefully monitored application of soil amendments is recommended.


biochar; dairy manure; hydraulic conductivity; infiltration; podzols; soil amendments

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