Soil structure changes: Aggregate size and soil texture effects on hydraulic conductivity under different saline and sodic conditions

M. Ben-Hur, G. Yolcu, H. Uysal, M. Lado, A. Paz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Hydraulic conductivity of soil is strongly dependent on soil structure, which can be degraded during wetting and leaching. It was hypothesised that this structural degradation is dependent on initial aggregate size distribution and soil texture. The general aim of this study was to investigate the effects of aggregate sizes and soil textures, and their interactions, on the structural degradation and saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ks) of smectitic soils under different saline and sodic conditions. The studied soils were clay and loamy sand soils with low (∼4.5) or high (∼10) exchangeable sodium percentages (ESP), and with aggregate sizes in the ranges: (i) <1mm (small aggregates); or (ii) 24mm (large aggregates). The Ks values of the samples in a column after slow or fast pre-wetting were determined by means of a constant head device. Different wetting rates and leaching under various saline and sodic conditions had no effect on the Ks of the loamy sand; however, the Ks values of this soil with large aggregates were an order of magnitude greater than those of the soil with small aggregates. In contrast, in the clay soil with large aggregates, the Ks values after fast pre-wetting were significantly smaller than those after slow pre-wetting, probably because of aggregate slaking. No significant effects of the wetting rates on Ks were found in clay soil with small aggregates. An increase in the ESP in the clay soil decreased the Ks by a factor of 1.5 for the large aggregates and by an order of magnitude for the small aggregates, mainly as a result of increased clay swelling. Leaching the clay soil with deionised water significantly decreased the Ks values, partly because of clay dispersion. Although significant structural degradation of the clay soil occurred during leaching, the Ks values were smaller in the soils with small aggregates than in those with large aggregates, indicating the importance of the initial aggregate size on Ks even in soils that are prone to structural damage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)688-696
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian Journal of Soil Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 23 Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Soil Science


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