The impact of wheel traffic on soil physical properties is usually quantified by randomly collecting soil cores at specific depths below the wheeled surface. However, modeling studies as well as few measurements indicated a non-uniform stress distribution in a catena across the wheel rut, which might induce different effects on soil physical properties. The objective of this study was to investigate the impact of vehicle traffic on soil physical properties and air permeability by systematic collection of samples in a transect running from the center to the outside of the wheel rut. A field experiment was conducted on a clay loam soil at Suberg, Switzerland, in 2010. Four repeated wheeling were performed by driving a forage harvester (wheel load of 6100 kg and a tyre width of 0.8 m) forward and rearward in the same track. We sampled 100 cm3 intact cores at 10, 30 and 50 cm depth in a soil catena running from center of the wheel rut to un wheeled part of the field (0, 20, 40, 50,60 and 400 cm horizontal distance). We measured water retention and air permeability (ka) at -30, -100 and -300 hPa matric potentials. At -100 hPa, we obtained consistently lower air filled under the wheel rut than at the periphery of the wheel rut (0.4 m) or outside the wheel rut. At least one of these differences ɛa was significant at all soil depths. At all matric potentials, the ka was lowest at the periphery of the wheel rut and highest outside the wheel rut, with intermediate values inside the wheel rut. However significant differences in ka were obtained only at 10 cm depth. The lowest air permeability at the periphery of the wheel rut is interpreted as a distortion of the soil pores due to shear strain rather than isotropic compaction. Our results indicate that sampling in the soil catena can provide better resolution on information about traffic induce changes on soil physical properties.
Berisso, F. E. et al. (2012) Influence of tillage on some soil chemical properties and Eucalyptus grandis growth. Agrociencia, 16(3), pp. 310-317.