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Ameliorating water repellency under turfgrass of contrasting soil organic matter content: Effect of wetting agent formulation and application frequency

Barton, L., Colmer, T.D.
Agricultural water management 2011 v.99 no.1 pp. 1-7
propylene, sandy soils, water conservation, Pennisetum clandestinum, irrigation, soil organic matter, water use efficiency, water resources, evaporation, soil water, summer, sand, active ingredients, turf grasses, ethanol, climate
Water conservation strategies are being developed in regions of the world expected to experience decreases in water resources due to changing climates. Strategies advocated for improving water-use efficiency may increase the incidence of soil water repellency in sandy-textured soils. We evaluated the effect of soil wetting agent formulation, and application frequency, on water repellency in sandy soil with two contrasting organic matter (OM) contents under kikuyugrass [Pennisetum clandestinum (Holst. Ex Chiov)], and irrigated at 60% replacement of net evaporation in a climate subject to hot, dry summers. The randomized plot design included two turfgrass ages [established from 20 week (7.7% OM) or 20 year old (30% OM) turfgrass in 2005, the latter included a 50mm ‘mat’ layer], two soil wetting agent formulations (granular or liquid); two application frequencies (one or two applications per irrigation season); and plots of both turfgrass ages that did not receive any wetting agent (nil control). Both wetting agent formulations contained the same active ingredient (propylene oxide–ethylene oxide block polymer), and all wetting agent treatments received the same rate (69L active ingredient ha⁻¹). Water repellency in the surface soil (0–5mm), measured using the molarity of ethanol droplet test (MED), ranged from 1.09M to 4.32M during the irrigation season, and was more severe in the soil with high OM (average MED, 3.3M) than low OM content (average MED, 2.7M). Applying one application of either granular or liquid soil wetting agent at the commencement of the irrigation season decreased the severity of soil water repellency by up to 30% in the high OM soil and by up to 60% in the low OM soil during the summer, and without the need for a second application. The decline in soil water repellency in response to soil wetting agent application was not matched by an increase in soil VWC in summer, and turfgrass quality was considered acceptable throughout the study. The soil wetting agents were less effective at treating water repellent sand containing a significant amount of OM than sand with low OM content.