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SWEEP Report #34

Survey of Moisture Distribution Between Tile Drainage
Laterals and Its Relationship to Compaction and
Rooting Depth in Flat Clay Soils

Researchers: 
C. Mirza, M. Percy, Strata Engineering Corporation, Don Mills, Ont.

Executive Summary

Evaluation Summary (Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)

View / Download Final Report  [2179 KB pdf]

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research

 

 

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Completed: December, 1990

Key Words:

drainage tiles, soil compaction, moisture content, Brookston clay soil, soil cracking, yields

Executive Summary

Three tile-drained farms on flat, poorly drained Brookston clay soil in northern Essex County were studied with respect to soil moisture distribution between drainage laterals and its relationship to compaction, root growth, crop development, and yields. The survey type study was carried out under uncontrolled conditions in order not to interfere with the cropping program and schedule of the three farmer cooperators.

No significant increase in soil density (and hence compaction) was observed on one farm which had tomatoes in its rotation the year before the study. Mean dry densities were lower on this farm than on the other farms studied.

Information from this study suggests that a soil moisture content of 20% represents optimum conditions for soil compaction on Brookston clay, and that agricultural equipment and implement traffic should be avoided at or near this moisture content, if possible. It was noted that soil moisture contents at harvest time are generally below 20%. Therefore, harvesting equipment and loaders for intensive cropping (tomatoes) should not pose a soil compaction problem on Brookston clay soil, unless there is a wetter than normal harvesting season.

Marked soil cracking was observed on all farms during the summer months. Principally because of these cracks, summer rains percolate very quickly below tile drain invert level. This tendency for relatively quick drainage during summer months is felt to be limiting adequate wetting of the root zone, and may also be contributing to undesirable removal of soil nutrients.

Due to the small number of farms and the overview scope of this study, firm conclusions could not be drawn for all parameters studied. Some observed trends require confirmation through further specific dedicated research, under controlled conditions, as outlined in the recommendations given in this report.

 

Evaluation Summary

(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank, Co-Chairs)7

Three tile-drained farms on flat, poorly drained Brookston clay soil in northern Essex County were studied with respect to soil moisture distribution between drainage laterals and its relationship to compaction, root growth, crop development and yields. Since this survey type study was carried out under uncontrolled conditions with a small number of farms no firm conclusions could be drawn.

Information from this study suggests that a soil moisture content of 20% represents optimum conditions for soil compaction on Brookston clay. Field operations should be avoided at or near this moisture content.

Soil cracking was observed on all farms during the summer months promoting quick downward movement of rain water to the tile drain level. This may limit adequate wetting of the root zone and result in the loss of agricultural chemicals.

Comments:

Due to a lack of controls and replications and the variability between the farms chosen (soil texture, crop history, management, etc.) no conclusions could be drawn from this study although some of the observations are of interest.

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research:

  • SWEEP Report #4 - Assessment of Soil Compaction and Structural Degradation in the Lowland Clay Soils

  • SWEEP Report #16 - Effects of Subsoiling on Corn Yields and Soil Conditions in Southwestern Ontario

  • SWEEP Report #24 - Investigation of Soil and Crop Response to Fall Subsoiling in Southwestern Ontario

  • LSP 7002 - Management of Fine Textured Poorly Drained Soil for Intensive Agriculture

  • LSP 7006/7007 - Management of Fine Textured Poorly Drained Soils for Intensive Agriculture: Characterization of a Forage Factor - Parts I and II

  • LSP 7012 - Improving the Degraded Structure of Fine Textured Soils with Deep Tillage and Grass and Legume Crops

  • LSP 7013 - Improving the Degraded Structure of a Clay Loam Soil with Deep Tillage and Grass and Legume Crops

  • LSP 7015 - Crop Production with a No-Traffic Tillage System

  • LSP 7019 - Impact of Soil Compaction on the Production of Processing Vegetables and Other Cash Crops

Future Research: ( ) indicates reviewers suggestion for priority, A - high, C - low.

(A) Influence of soil cracking on transmittal of water and agricultural chemicals beyond the root zone. Options such as periodic irrigation or blocking the tile drains during the summer months could be investigated.

 

 

 

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Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 02:53:44 PM