Field method for separating the contribution of surface‐connected preferential flow pathways from flow through the soil matrix Academic Article uri icon


  • Liquid latex was used as a method to seal visible surface-connected preferential flow pathways (PFPs) in the field in an effort to block large surface-connected preferential flow and force water to move through the soil matrix. The proposed approach allows for the quantification of the contribution of large surface-connected cracks and biological pores to infiltration at various soil moisture states. Experiments were conducted in a silty clay loam soil in a field under a no-till corn-soybean rotation planted to corn. Surface intake rates under ponding were measured using a simplified falling head technique under two scenarios: (1) natural soil conditions with unaltered PFPs and (2) similar soil conditions with latex-sealed large macropores at the surface. Results indicated that the contribution of flow from large surface-connected macropores to overall surface intake rates varied from approximately 34% to 99% depending on the initial moisture content and macroporosity present. However, evidence of preferential flow continued to appear in latex-sealed plots, suggesting significant contributions to preferential flow from smaller structural macropores, particularly in two out of four tests where no significant differences were observed between control and latex-sealed plots.

author list (cited authors)

  • Sanders, E. C., Najm, M., Mohtar, R. H., Kladivko, E., & Schulze, D.

citation count

  • 18

publication date

  • April 2012