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Water Science & Technology Vol 65 No 12 pp 2162–2168 © IWA Publishing 2012 doi:10.2166/wst.2012.116

Comparison studies of unsaturated flow below annual and perennial plants

Bill Scott, Ross Lantzke, Dave Nicholson and Paul Findlater

Environmental Science, Murdoch University, Perth 6150, Western Australia, Australia E-mail: B.Scott@murdoch.edu.au
Department of Agriculture and Food WA, Geraldton 6530, Western Australia, Australia


Values of unsaturated water content determined with neutron moisture measurements (NMM) reveal different water profiles below different plantings. In the extremes, calibration requires a linear and logarithmic response (using the Lambert-W function) along with the normal submersion in a drum of water. Nevertheless a post-calibration with a hydraulic push sampler was used for confirmation. Data were collected at six pastures near the Western Australia coast near Geraldton, with four replicates through the profile. The sites have mostly sandy soils and receive 300–500 mm of rainfall annually. Findings generally showed that, if there was sufficient water, as in 2006, the perennials were able to use the water evenly throughout the vertical profile. Otherwise, with low rainfall, as in 2009, perennials struggle to survive and use less water than the annuals. Modelling of the soil water movement, plant growth and calibration/recalibration is and will be used to get a maximum likehood fit. Clearly, in desert conditions and little or no vegetation, rainfall tends to build up deep in the profile, increase salinity in groundwater, and create waterlogging. Any vegetation is helpful; perennials more so; provided they have sufficient water and are not significantly harvested.

Keywords: annual; moisture; neutron; perennial; profile; water

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