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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-643
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-643
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  29 Nov 2017

29 Nov 2017

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS). The manuscript was not accepted for further review after discussion.

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

Jose Luis Gabriel1, Miguel Quemada2, Diana Martín-Lammerding1, and Marnik Vanclooster3 Jose Luis Gabriel et al.
  • 1Dpto. Medio Ambiente, INIA (National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology), Ctra. de la Coruña km 7.5, 28040 Madrid, Spain
  • 2Dpto. Producción Agraria, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Avda. Puerta de Hierro 2-4, 28040 Madrid, Spain
  • 3Earth and Life Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Croix du Sud 2, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Abstract. 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 subsequently 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.

Jose Luis Gabriel et al.

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Jose Luis Gabriel et al.

Jose Luis Gabriel et al.

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Short summary
Few studies are available allowing to evaluate the impact of cover cropping on the long term change of soil hydrologic functions, so we assessed the changes during a 10-year field experiment. 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, enhancing the hydrologic functions of agricultural soils in regions which often are constrained by water stress.
Few studies are available allowing to evaluate the impact of cover cropping on the long term...
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