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Soil Water Retention Curve as Affected by Sample Height

Maria Laiane do Nascimento Silva, Paulo Leonel Libardi, Fernando Henrique Setti Gimenes


DOI: 10.1590/18069657rbcs20180058


The soil water retention curve is one of the main instruments to assess the soil physical quality and to improve soil management. Traditionally, the equipment most used in the laboratory to determine the retention curve has been Haines funnels and Richards chambers. An important factor to which little attention has been given in the use of these equipaments is the height of the undisturbed soil sample. This work proposes to evaluate the influence of different heights of undisturbed samples for the determination of the retention curve. For this, undisturbed soil samples were collected in aluminum cylinders of three different heights (S1 = 75 mm; S2 =50mm; S3 =25 mm) and with the same internal diameter (70 mm) from the diagnostic horizons of a Typic Hapludox and a Kandiudalfic Eutrudox (Latossolo Vermelho amarelo distrófico típico and Nitossolo Vermelho eutrófico latossólico, respectively) in experimental areas of “Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz” (ESALQ/USP), Piracicaba (SP), Brazil. The soil physical characterization was done based on granulometric analysis, bulk density, particle density, porosity, and organic carbon. The retention curves were determined for each sample size using Haines funnels for the tensions of 0.5, 1, 4, 6, and 10 kPa and Richards chambers for 33, 100, and 500 kPa. Data of the curves were estimated, fitted to a model and then the distribution of the soil pore radius was evaluated, differentiating the soil water retention curve. The Typic Hapludox showed a not so remarkable difference between the retention curve with the S3 samples and the retention curve with the S1 samples, in the range 0-1 kPa of tensions, and also between the retention curve with S1 samples and both retention curves with the S2 and S3 samples, in the range 100-500 kPa of tension. This led to a slight difference in the pore distribution curves for the sample heights of this soil. The Kandiudalfic Eutrudox, however, presented not only a remarkable difference of the smaller sample retention curve (S3) in relation to the larger ones (S1 and S2) in the range 0-10 kPa of tension, but also a notable difference in the pore distribution curves, with a reduction of mesopores and increase of micropores with the increase of sample height. Finally, from the results obtained and with the methodology used to determine the soil retention curve, it is not recommended to use undisturbed samples with a height greater than 25 mm.

Soil Water Retention Curve as Affected by Sample Height