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Tillage-Induced Spatial Distribution of Surface Crusts on a Sandy Paleustult from Togo

Bielders, C. L., Baveye, P., Wilding, L. P., Drees, L. R., Valentin, C.
Soil Science Society of America journal 1996 v.60 no.3 pp. 843-855
microrelief, sandy soils, agricultural soils, Ultisols, spatial distribution, tillage, sediment deposition, soil micromorphology, soil erosion, runoff, coarse-textured soils, Togo (Africa)
The spatial distribution of crusts in coarse-textured soils and the processes affecting it are poorly documented, despite the potential impact of crusts on water infiltration. This study addresses the influence of tillage-induced microrelief on the morphology and spatial distribution of surface crusts in an Oxic Paleustult from southern Togo (West Africa). Replicate 1-m² plots were exposed to 217 mm of natural rainfall during a 6-wk period, during which the surface topography was measured three times. Subsequently, 24 undisturbed crust samples were used for micromorphological analysis. The crusts exhibited a range of morphologies but were nevertheless adequately mapped and characterized according to two main types. Type 1 crusts (≈ runoff crusts) showed several superposed clay bands, 100 to 500 mm thick, buried within a micromass-depleted sand layer ≤12 mm thick. Type 2 crusts (≈ erosion crusts) had an exposed clay band a few tenths of a millimeter thick. The spatial distribution of crusts at the time of sampling appeared better correlated with the initial than with the final microtopography of the plots. These findings suggest that crust distribution should be regarded as history dependent and that erosion and deposition processes largely governed the development of the crusts. This latter aspect is in agreement with the recent crust genesis model of Valentin and Bresson, as is the fact that clay bands in our plots were laterally continuous at all observational scales ≤0.1 m. Other mechanisms proposed in the literature for the development of clay bands did not seem able to account adequately for the observed pattern.