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Soil water content and infiltration in agroforestry buffer strips

by Stephen H. Anderson, Ranjith P. Udawatta, Tshepiso Seobi, Harold E. Garrett
Agroforestry Systems ()
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Agroforestry practices are receiving increased attention in temperate zones due to their environmental and economic benefits. To test the hypothesis that agroforestry buffers reduce runoff by increased infiltration, water use, and water storage; profile water content and soil water infiltration were measured for a Putnam soil (fine, smectitic, mesic Vertic Albaqualf). The watershed was under no-till management with a corn (Zea mays L.)-soybean (Glycine max L.) rotation since 1991. Agroforestry buffer strips, 4.5 m wide and 36.5 m apart, were planted with redtop (Agrostis gigantea Roth), brome (Bromus spp.), and birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.). Pin oak (Quercus palustris Muenchh.), swamp white oak (Q. bicolor Willd.) and bur oak (Q. macrocarpa Michx.) trees were planted at 3-m intervals in the center of the agroforestry buffers in 1997. Ponded water infiltration was measured in agroforestry and grass buffers and row crop areas. Water content in agroforestry and row crop areas at 5, 10, 20, and 40 cm depths were measured throughout the year. Quasi-steady infiltration rates were not different (P > 0.05) among the treatments. Agroforestry had lower soil water content than row crop areas (P < 0.05) during the growing season. Higher water content after the principal recharge event in the agroforestry treatment was attributed to better infiltration through the root system. Results show that agroforestry buffer strips reduce soil water content during critical times such as fallow periods, and increase water infiltration and water storage. Therefore, adoption of agroforestry buffer practices may reduce runoff and soil loss from watersheds in row crop management.

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