Flow and transport processes in a macroporous subsurface-drained glacial till soil: I: Field investigations

Karen Grothe Villholth, Karsten Høgh Jensen, Johnny Fredericia

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    The qualitative and quantitative effects of macropore flow and transport in an agricultural subsurface-drained glacial till soil in eastern Denmark have been investigated. Three controlled tracer experiments on individual field plots (each approximately 1000 m(2)) were carried out by surface application of the conservative chloride ion under different application conditions. The subsequent continuous long-term monitoring of the rate and chloride concentration of the drainage discharge represented an integrated and large-scale approach to the problem. In addition, point-scale determination of macropore structure and hydraulic efficiency, using image analysis and tension infiltration, and of soil water content, level of groundwater table, and chloride content of soil water within the soil profile yielded insights into small-scale processes and their associated variability. Macropore how was evidenced directly by the rapid (within 10 mm of water input) and abrupt chloride breakthrough in the drainage water at 1.2 m depth in two of the tracer experiments. In the third experiment, the effect of macropore transport was obvious from the rapid and relatively deep penetration of the tracer into the soil profile. Dye infiltration experiments in the field as well as in the laboratory supported the recognition of the dominant contribution of macropores to the infiltration and transport process. The soil matrix significantly influenced the tracer distribution by acting as a source or sink for continuous solute exchange with the macropores. An average field-determined active macroporosity constituted 0.2% of the total porosity, or approximately 10% of the total macroporosity. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Issue number1-2
    Pages (from-to)98-120
    Publication statusPublished - 1998


    • structural soils
    • macropores
    • subsurface-drainage
    • field-scale experiments
    • conservative tracer
    • flow and transport processes

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