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Soil-water infiltration under crops, pasture, and established riparian buffer

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Soil-water infiltration under crops, pasture, and established riparianbuffer in Midwestern USAL. Bharati1, K.-H. Lee2, T.M. Isenhart3and R.C. Schultz3,*1Center for Development Research, Ecology and Resource Management, Walter-Flex-Str. 3, 53113 Bonn,Germany;2School of Forest Resources and Conservation, University of Florida, 5988 Highway 90, Building4900, Milton, Florida, USA;3Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Iowa StateUniversity, 253 Bessey Hall, Iowa 50011 Ames, USA; *Author for correspondence (e-mail:[email protected];)Received 25 July 2002; accepted in revised form 8 August 2002Key words: Conservation buffer, Filter strip, Riparian forest buffer, Soil quality, SwitchgrassAbstractThe production-oriented agricultural system of Midwestern United States has caused environmental problemssuch as soil degradation and nonpoint source (NPS) pollution of water. Riparian buffers have been shown toreduce the impacts of NPS pollutants on stream water quality through the enhancement of riparian zone soilquality. The objective of this study was to compare soil-water infiltration in a Coland soil (fine-loamy, mixed,superactive, mesic Cumulic Endoaquoll) under multi-species riparian buffer vegetation with that of cultivatedfields and a grazed pasture. Eight infiltration measurements were made, in each of six treatments. Bulk density,antecedent soil moisture, and particle size were also examined. The average 60-min cumulative infiltration wasfive times greater under the buffers than under the cultivated field and pasture. Cumulative infiltration in themulti-species riparian buffer was in the order of silver maple > grass filter > switchgrass. Cumulative infiltrationdid not differ significantly (P < 0.05) among corn and soybean crop fields and the pasture. Soil bulk densitiesunder the multi-species buffer vegetation were significantly (P < 0.05) smaller than in the crop fields and thepasture. Other measured parameters did not show consistent trends. Thus, when using infiltration as an index, theestablished multi-species buffer vegetation seemed to improve soil quality after six years.IntroductionHighly efficient agriculture systems have producedmany nonpoint source (NPS) pollution problems. Ri-parian buffers can reduce NPS pollution from agricul-tural areas through the enhancement of riparian zonesoil quality (Schultz et al. 1995). The Soil ScienceSociety of America defines soil quality as: ‘The ca-pacity of a specific kind of soil to function, withinnatural or managed ecosystem boundaries, to sustainplant and animal productivity, maintain or enhancewater and air quality, and support human health andhabitation’ (Soil Science Society of America 1995).Infiltration characteristics are closely related to soilstructure and may be a good indicator of changes insoil physical and biological properties (Radke andBerry 1993). Water infiltration affects crop productionand the volume, transport route, and quality of agri-cultural drainage (Mukhtar et al. 1985). Several fac-tors such as slope of the landscape, soil texture andstructure, vegetation cover, management systems, an-tecedent water content and soil organic matter havean effect on infiltration (Radke and Berry 1993). In-creased infiltration usually delays the time during astorm, when surface runoff begins and during this ex-tra time, the infiltrating water can leach more of thechemicals out of the thin mixing zone of soil that in-teracts with rainfall and runoff (Mukhtar et al. 1985).Rapid infiltration rates would increase the contacttime between water transported NPS pollutants andthe associated ‘living plant-soil filter’ of a multi-spe-cies riparian buffer (Schultz et al. 1995). Also, as249Agroforestry Systems 56: 249–257, 2002.© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.more water infiltrates, surface runoff velocities willdecrease which in turn reduce soil erosion (Lee et al.2000).Radke and Berry (1993) found ponded and simu-lated rainfall infiltration to be a good integrator ofstructurally related soil properties and used them tolearn whether changes in soil properties had occurredbefore running other tests to determine the causes.During rainfall events of limited amounts and dura-tions (e.g., ⭐ 5cmh−1) less than 30 cm of surfacesoil is immediately involved with infiltrated water(Mukhtar et al. 1985). Surface soil conditions includ-ing the presence of macropores determine the amountof water entering the soil (Mukhtar et al. 1985).Deeper soils will play a role only under surface con-ditions of large transfer rates and low storage volume.These conditions can occur when the soil contains ahigh proportion of connected macropores.Macropores can greatly increase infiltration and arecreated by soil fauna and old root channels, fractureplanes caused by tillage, and soil cracks caused bydrying and freezing (Mukhtar et al. 1985; Radke andBerry 1993).Different cropping, tillage, and management sys-tems, often change structurally related soil physicaland biological properties (Meek et al. 1992; Radkeand Berry 1993). Compaction caused by farm imple-ments and grazing animals increases soil bulk densityand reduces infiltration (Radke and Berry 1993). Asurface cover of live plants or crop residue can helpmaintain larger infiltration rates by reducing compac-tion from the impact of rainfall, crusting and decreas-ing soil water evaporation (Mukhtar et al. 1985;Radke and Berry 1993).Potentially confounding the ability to detect man-agement effects on soil-water infiltration is the inher-ent variability of depositional soils. For example,Hammer et al. (1987) found that bottomland soilswere the most variable of three landscape units stud-ied. Stolt et al. (2001) recommended that a stratifiedsampling design be used to quantify soil variabilitywithin these zones and to separate systematic fromrandom soil components. This was the strategy em-ployed in this study, as sampling units were restrictedto a single soil mapping unit.The multispecies riparian buffer (MRB) was de-signed to test the hypothesis that the establishment ofriparian buffers with tree, shrub and prairie vegetationon previously cultivated fields or pastures would de-crease the impacts of NPS pollutants on stream waterquality through the enhancement of riparian zone soilquality (Schultz et al. 1995).The objective of this study was to compare therates of infiltration, bulk density, antecedent soilmoisture, and particle size in the different


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