Infiltration Management Strategies

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 12:43 PM

The soil and vegetation properties that currently limit infiltration and the potential for increasing the infiltration rate must be considered in any management plan. Where waterflow patterns have been altered by a shift in vegetation, such as a shift from grassland to open-canopy shrub land, restoration of higher infiltration rates may be difficult or take a long period, especially if depletion of organic matter and/or soil loss have occurred. Excessive grazing of forage can impair infiltration.

Management strategies include:
• Increase the amount of plant cover, especially of plants that have positive effects on infiltration.
• Decrease the extent of compaction by avoiding intensive grazing and the use of machinery when the soils are wet.
• Decrease the formation of physical crusts by maintaining or improving the cover of plants or litter and thus reducing the impact of raindrops.
• Increase aggregate stability by increasing the amount of organic matter added to the soil through residue decomposition and vigorous root growth.

Infiltration rate
The infiltration rate is generally highest when the soil is dry. As the soil becomes wet, the infiltration rate slows to the rate at which water moves through the most restrictive layer, such as a compacted layer or a layer of dense clay. Infiltration rates decline as water temperature approaches freezing. Little or no water penetrates the surface of frozen or saturated soils.

A high percentage of plant cover and large amounts of root biomass generally increase the infiltration rate. Different plant species have different effects on infiltration. The species that form a dense root mat can reduce the infiltration rate. In areas of arid and semiarid rangeland, the infiltration-limiting layer commonly is confined to the top few millimeters of the soil, particularly in the open spaces between plant canopies. These areas receive few inputs of organic matter, which build soil structure. Also, the impact of raindrops in these areas can degrade soil structure and form physical crusts.

Don't be afraid to practice these techniques. They will serve your soil right and you will reep all the benefits. Please tell your friends and family how infiltration affects them directly.


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