Washington State University Extension

Irrigated Agriculture


Soil Organic Matter Boosts Water Holding Capacity

Posted May 7, 2014

The amount of water in the soil that is available to crops is another soil property that can be improved by increasing organic matter content. B. D. Hudson, in a 1994 paper, presented data on this for sands from Florida and silt loams from Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (Hudson, 1994, as redrawn in Franzluebbers, 2010): Read more »

Protect the Soil Surface to Increase Water Infiltration

Posted April 28, 2014

If you want your soil to take water faster, protect the surface with crop residues. This was shown in a classic study from 1940.

F.L. Duley took a sandy loam, covered it with straw, and then applied a simulated rainfall to it for five hours at a rate higher than what it could take, resulting in runoff. He measured the rate of water entering the soil (infiltration) which settled to a nearly constant 1.2 inches per hour (click on graph below). After 40 minutes of this, he removed the straw. The infiltration rate of the now bare soil dropped rapidly, then leveled off at just 0.25″ per hour.

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