The Soil-Carbon-Water Connection: Long-Term Impacts of Tillage/Drainage on Soil Health in an Ohio Field Site

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The Ohio State University

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Soil tillage and drainage are important agronomic practices in Ohio and around the world, but their effects on soil physical and hydraulic properties, especially together, are not completely understood. This study examined a long-term experimental site established as a two-factor layout examining tillage vs no-till and tile drainage vs natural drainage on an aquic central Ohio soil. Water retention, infiltration, and aggregate stability were measured using standard field and lab methods. Results were compared to results for a forest site nearby, on the same soil type. The forest sites had the greatest plant- available water capacity (PAWC), while the tilled soils had the lowest, with the no-till sites in between. This relationship also held for the aggregate stability, where the forest had the more and larger aggregates, while the tilled soils had the least numerous and the smallest aggregates. Infiltration results were mixed and inconsistent with published literature, highlighting a need for more field-infiltration studies to better understand the effects of tillage and drainage on infiltration, percolation, and runoff. This study provides a theoretical basis for future research on the effects of farm management practices on soil physical and hydraulic properties, and reflect long-term changes in these properties under no-till and with different water-management strategies.