Soil & tillage research vol:49 issue:4 pages:301-312
Chiselling in air-dry soils can rapidly create inverse grading of the plough layer as field experiments showed, i.e., the largest particles (rock fragments) are brought to the surface and the smallest particles concentrate at the bottom of the plough layer. Since no information about the effect of soil moisture and fine earth characteristics on this process is available laboratory experiments were conducted to examine the effect of soil moisture and fine earth characteristics on the vertical movement (segregation) of rock fragments due to tillage. An experimental trough, 120x60x40 cm(3), was filled with three layers (each 4 cm thick) of fine earth (sand or silt loam), and rock fragments (1.2-2.2 and 2.7-4.0 cm). Tillage was simulated by moving a hand-held cultivator through the mixture. The results for the sandy soil matrix showed that inter-particle percolation was slowed down by soil moisture, however, at the same rate for different moisture levels. This was attributed to water-films that surround the sand particles. In the silt-loam soil matrix inter-particle percolation was stronger than that occurring in the sandy matrix at similar volumetric moisture contents but vertical movement was impossible at higher moisture contents (0.17 m(3) m(-3)) because of a strong increase in stickiness. The results imply that at low moisture contents farmers in areas threatened by desertification can use moderate tillage as a means to create a surface rich in rock fragments which helps to increase water infiltration and decrease erosion. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.