Assessing the cover crop effect on soil hydraulic properties by inverse modelling in a 10-year field trial

Jose Luis Gabriel, Miguel Quemada, Diana Martín-Lammerding, Marnik Vanclooster
2017 Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions  
Cover cropping in agriculture is expected to enhance many agricultural and ecosystems functions and services. Yet, few studies are available allowing to evaluate the impact of cover cropping on the long term change of soil hydrologic functions. We assessed the long term change of the soil hydraulic properties due to cover cropping by means of a 10-year field experiment. We monitored continuously soil water content in non cover cropped and cover cropped fields by means of capacitance probes. We
more » ... ubsequently determined the hydraulic properties by inverting the soil hydrological model WAVE, using the time series of the 10 year monitoring data in the object function. We observed two main impacts, each having their own time dynamics. First, we observed an initial compaction as a result of the minimum tillage. This initial negative effect was followed by a more positive cover crop effect. The positive cover crop effect consisted in an increase of the soil micro- and macro-porosity, improving the structure. This resulted in a larger soil water retention capacity. This latter improvement was mainly observed below 20 cm, and mostly in the soil layer between 40 and 80 cm depth. This study shows that the expected cover crop competition for water with the main crop can be compensated by an improvement of the water retention in the intermediate layers of the soil profile. This may enhance the hydrologic functions of agricultural soils in arid and semiarid regions which often are constrained by water stress.
doi:10.5194/hess-2017-643 fatcat:hr4z746ihba4tnkw2u7kuixvai