Soil Moisture Constants

Soil Moisture Constants

    Earlier classification divided soil water into gravitational, capillary and hygroscopic water. The hygroscopic and capillary waters are in equilibrium with the soil under given conditions. The hygroscopic coefficient and the maximum capillary capacity are the two equilibrium points when the soil contains the maximum amount of hygroscopic and capillary waters, respectively. The amount of water that a soil contains at each of these equilibrium points is known as soil moisture constant.

    The soil moisture constant, therefore, represents definite soil moisture relationship and retention of soil moisture in the field.
    The three classes of water (gravitational, capillary and hygroscopic) are however very broad and do not represent accurately the soil - water relationships that exist under field conditions.

    Though the maximum capillary capacity represents the maximum amount of capillary water that a soil holds, the whole of capillary water is not available for the use of the plants. The plants can not utilize a part of it, at its lower limit approaching the hygroscopic coefficient. Similarly, a part of the capillary water at its upper limit is also not available for the use of plants. Hence, two more soil constants; viz., field capacity and wilting coefficient have been introduced to express the soil-plant-water relationships as found to exist under field conditions.

    1. Field capacity: It is the capacity of the soil to retain water against the downward pull of the force of gravity. At this stage, only micropores or capillary pores are filled with water and plants absorb water for their use. At field capacity, water is held with a force of 1/3 atmosphere. Water at field capacity is readily available to plants and microorganisms.

    2. Wilting coefficient: The stage at which plants start wilting for want of water is termed the Wilting Point and the percentage amount of water held by the soil at this stage is known as the Wilting Coefficient. It represents the point at which the soil is unable to supply water to the plant. Water at wilting coefficient is held with a force of 15 atmospheres.

    3. Hygroscopic coefficient: The hygroscopic coefficient is the maximum amount of hygroscopic water absorbed by 100 g of dry soil under standard conditions of humidity (50% relative humidity) and temperature (15°C). This tension is equal to a force of 31 atmospheres. Water at this tension is not available to plant but may be available to microorganisms.

    4. Available water capacity: The amount of water required to apply to a soil at the wilting point to reach the field capacity is called the "available" water. The water supplying power of soils is related to the amount of available water a soil can hold. The available water is the difference in the amount of water at Field Capacity (0.3 bar) and the amount of water at the Permanent Wilting Point (15 bars).

    5. Maximum water holding capacity: It is also known as maximum retentive capacity. It is the amount of moisture in a soil when its pore spaces, both micro and macro-capillary, are completely filled with water. It is a rough measure of total pore space of soil. Soil moisture tension is very low between 1/100th to 1/1000th of an atmosphere or pF 1 to 0.
    Summary of the soil moisture constants, type of water and force with which it is held, is given in following table.

    Soil moisture constants and range of tension and pF
    S.No. Moisture class Tension (atm/bar) pF
    1 Chemically combined Very high ---
    2 Water vapour Held at saturation point in the soil air ---
    3 Hygroscopic 31 to 10,000 4.50 to 7.00
    4 Hygroscopic coefficient 31 4.50
    5 Wilting point 15 4.20
    6 Capillary or available water 1/3 to -31 2.54 to 4.50

    Moisture equivalent 1/3 to 1 2.70 to 3.00

    Field capacity 1/3 2.54

    Sticky point 1/3 (more or less) 2.54

    Gravitational Zero or less than -1/3 <2.54

    Maximum water holding capacity Almost zero ---

Last modified: Thursday, 21 June 2012, 1:07 PM