Articles | Volume 19, issue 3
Research article
03 Mar 2015
Research article |  | 03 Mar 2015

Use of field and laboratory methods for estimating unsaturated hydraulic properties under different land uses

S. Siltecho, C. Hammecker, V. Sriboonlue, C. Clermont-Dauphin, V. Trelo-ges, A. C. D. Antonino, and R. Angulo-Jaramillo

Abstract. Adequate water management is required to improve the efficiency and sustainability of agricultural systems when water is scarce or over-abundant, especially in the case of land use changes. In order to quantify, to predict and eventually to control water and solute transport into soil, soil hydraulic properties need to be determined precisely. As their determination is often tedious, expensive and time-consuming, many alternative field and laboratory techniques are now available. The aim of this study was to determine unsaturated soil hydraulic properties under different land uses and to compare the results obtained with different measurement methods (Beerkan, disc infiltrometer, evaporation, pedotransfer function). The study has been realized on a tropical sandy soil in a mini-watershed in northeastern Thailand. The experimental plots were positioned in a rubber tree plantation in different positions along a slope, in ruzi grass pasture and in an original forest site. Non-parametric statistics demonstrated that van Genuchten unsaturated soil parameters (Ks, α and n) were significantly different according to the measurement methods employed, whereas the land use was not a significant discriminating factor when all methods were considered together. However, within each method, parameters n and α were statistically different according to the sites. These parameters were used with Hydrus1D for a 1-year simulation and computed pressure head did not show noticeable differences for the various sets of parameters, highlighting the fact that for modeling, any of these measurement methods could be employed. The choice of the measurement method would therefore be motivated by the simplicity, robustness and its low cost.

Short summary
Several methods for measuring unsaturated soil characteristics have been tested on sandy soil in northeastern Thailand, with different land uses. Each method shows significantly different parameters, regardless of land use. Nevertheless, when used for annual water balance modeling with HYDRUS1D, no noticeable differences for the various sets of parameters appeared. Any of these measurement method could be employed. Therefore, we recommended using the cheapest and easiest (i.e., Beerkan) method.