Evaluating Soil PlantAtmosphere Parameters and Processes

Agricultural management practices (e.g., tillage and reconsolidation; no-tillage and surface residues; plants and crop rotations; irrigation, manure, and fertilization practices; and grazing management) are major sources of temporal variability of soil properties and processes. Changes in soil properties and processes, in turn, impact soil water, mass transport, plant growth dynamics, and the environment. Weather-related factors such as freezing-thawing and wetting-drying may modify the management effects. Numerous field and agricultural modeling studies have shown evidence of the significant management effects on soil-water-nutrient-plant properties and processes. Important areas where agricultural models have been used to help investigate management effects on soil properties and processes include: (1) predicting effects of tillage and natural reconsolidation; (2) predicting surface roughness and detention storage effects; (3) quantifying the effects of wheel-track compaction; and (4) quantifying long-term no-tillage and crop residue effects, including the impacts of macropores and residue cover on infiltration.

Another extremely important area where agricultural models have been used to study changes in properties at the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum is the influence of roots on soil structure and macroporosity. The magnitude and distribution of root growth in a soil profile vary widely between and within plant species. The depth and temporal pattern of root growth also depends on soil properties such as soil bulk density, temperature, water content regime, salinity, and nutrient deficiencies, which change with depth in heterogeneous layered soils. The distribution of root growth with depth and time determines the distribution of water and nutrient uptake from the soil. This, in turn, influences water, chemical, and heat movement in the soil. Additional areas where agricultural models are being used at the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum include quantification of water and nutrient uptake by roots, and evaluation of transpiration and carbon dioxide fluxes at the canopy-atmosphere interface under water stress.

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