New insights into the correlation between soil thermal conductivity and water retention in unsaturated soils

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Fu, Yongwei
Ghanbarian, Behzad
Heitman, Joshua
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Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Soil Science Society of America
Horton, Robert
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The Department of Agronomy seeks to teach the study of the farm-field, its crops, and its science and management. It originally consisted of three sub-departments to do this: Soils, Farm-Crops, and Agricultural Engineering (which became its own department in 1907). Today, the department teaches crop sciences and breeding, soil sciences, meteorology, agroecology, and biotechnology.

The Department of Agronomy was formed in 1902. From 1917 to 1935 it was known as the Department of Farm Crops and Soils.

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  • Department of Farm Crops and Soils (1917–1935)

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The heat transfer and water retention in soils, governed by soil thermal conductivity (λ) and soil water retention curve (SWRC), are coupled. Soil water content (θ) significantly affects λ. Several models have been developed to describe λ(θ) relationships for unsaturated soils. Ghanbarian and Daigle presented a percolation-based effective-medium approximation (P-EMA) for λ(θ) with two parameters: scaling exponent (ts) and critical water content (θc). In this study, we explored the new insights into the correlation between soil thermal conductivity and water retention using the P-EMA and van Genuchten models. The θc was strongly correlated to selected soil hydraulic and physical properties, such as water contents at wilting point (θpwp), inflection point (θi), and hydraulic continuity (θhc) determined from measured SWRCs for a 23-soil calibration dataset. The established relationships were then evaluated on a seven-soil validation dataset to estimate θc. Results confirmed their robustness with root mean square error ranging from 0.011 to 0.015 cm3 cm−3, MAE ranging from 0.008 to 0.013 cm3 cm−3, and R2 of 0.98. Further discussion investigated the underlying mechanism for the correlation between θc with θhc which dominate both heat transfer and water flow. More importantly, this study revealed the possibility to further investigate the general relationship between λ(θ) and SWRC data in the future.
This article is published as Fu, Yongwei, Behzad Ghanbarian, Robert Horton, and Joshua Heitman. "New insights into the correlation between soil thermal conductivity and water retention in unsaturated soils." Vadose Zone Journal (2023): e20297. doi: © 2023 The Authors.

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