Water Infiltration

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by Smallaxe, Nov 29, 2013.

  1. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Missouri education, talks about water movement through various soil types:

    "Structure is important in that it can modify the influence of soil texture. For example, a (structureless) soil high in clay will have very fine pores because of the higher packing ratio of small particles. Without the ameliorating influence of soil structure, air, water and plant roots would move through the soil with great difficulty. Structure provides larger spaces between aggregates to facilitate movement. Air, water and plant roots can penetrate deeper in the soil; this can be important to plant survival during times of drought. The larger voids serve as short-term storage space for water, easily accessed by plants."

    at the following website:

    "Many types or shapes of structure occur in soils. Other soils have no true structure and are called structureless. Certain deposits, for example sands in a sand dune, are called single grain because there is little to no attraction between sand grains. On the other textural extreme, some clay soils occur as large cohesive masses and are termed massive in structure. Many soils, however, will exhibit definite and repeatable shapes that we can describe with four general categories."

    "The final structure shape is platy. Platy structure is characterized by relatively thin (<1 mm to about 10 mm) horizontally oriented peds that look like plates stacked one on top of another. It may occur in surface or subsurface horizons as a natural product of soil formation or development. Unlike other shapes, it may be inherited from a soil’s parent material especially if it was deposited by water (alluvium, flowing water; or lacustrine, lake water) or ice (glacial)."

    "W/out the ameliorating influence of soil structure...", in the first paragraph, how does water behave in clay soils???
    Evidently there is something I'm missing in these short paragraphs that do not allow for platelets in clay to restrict water infiltration... I'd like to hear rational explanation why clay platelets do NOT restrict water movement... :)
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    So it means just what it says it means and the platy structures or massive structures that show up in clay DO make a difference in water infiltration...
    I wish we could eliminate the snotty bullying that people engage in whenever the subject comes up,,, but:

    Heavy soils that do not percolate well,,, are a big problem in the lawncare industry and formulating sensible solutions based on real horticultural ameliorating strategies could make heroes out of LCOs in the eyes of their clients...

    It would be helpful if the forum could actually discuss article as displayed above rather than talking about the grass blades turning brown or super green... fungal problems stem from poor coil conditions and Professional LCOs should know soils... :)
  3. americanlawn

    americanlawn LawnSite Fanatic
    from midwest
    Messages: 5,955

    Nice thread Smallaxe. Some of the best soils on the planet are in Iowa. A result of several glaciers that passed through.

    To improve poor/heavy soils that do not percolate well =

    Mechanical methods?

    Topical products?

  4. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    What we got over here from the glacier is huge, deep gouges in the surface, over a foundation layer of granite... A lot of tumbled field stone, from as large as a volkswagon right down to the size of rock gravel and sand, usually all mixed together; so picking rock here is almost as bad as in Ireland... Our general area is sand,,, which makes potatoes a great crop if there is irrigation available...

    Wisco also has areas that are thick with clay, scattered about the base layer of sand and rock... so the construction yards mine the clay, remix with sand, along with Compost,,, then sells as topsoil...
    Great stuff but with overly frequent irrigation the mix begins to separate and too much clay gets floated to the top of the soil's horizon and will actually form a 'layer' void of sand...

    As farmers, we often mention the topsoils in the corn belt states... 6' thick layer of the rich, black dirt that you can hardly believe exists...
    They say 45% clay, 45% sand and 10% silt/OM is about the perfect mix...

    How do your average soils line up with that standard??? :)
  5. americanlawn

    americanlawn LawnSite Fanatic
    from midwest
    Messages: 5,955

    My family farm is in NW Iowa -- O'Brien county. For the past 3 years, this county has the highest land value of any Iowa county. When I was a kid digging holes for corner fence posts, we could dig down as deep as 5 feet before running into blue clay. Glacier-formed lakes were just a few miles away.

    Northern Iowa has great soil. Southern Iowa soil is mostly crap, so much of it is grassland & woodland.

    The upper Midwest has the best soils. I'm talkin' the Cornbelt for sure.
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Growing up on the farm and digging in the dirt for post holes is also where I started learning about our geology... Our farm was one of the spots that had a clay deposit, whereas the tri-county region around us was mostly sand all the way to the water table...

    Our clay in the fields was about 2.5 feet thick,,, with a layer of 2-4 inch tumbled rock and clay for another 8" below that,,, then a myriad of sands underneath... we are on high ground,,, whereas the sandy regions are in lowlands, rivers and lakes... the place was logged off and tilled about a hundred years ago so the top 18" of clay has the typical dark color of humus in the soil,,, underneath is red clay that is still sticky when wet...

    So what has been the Lawn Care Culture in your area??? With the excellent deep soils, is there a lot of irrigated lawns AND do they bag the clippings???

    In our sand around the lakes, rivers, and stream, we have a culture of irrigation, because:
    "... the only possibility way to have grass, is with a lot of water and that 'bagging' is the best thing for your turf!" :)
    How does that philosophy compare with your region of the Midwest??? :)
  7. TCW

    TCW LawnSite Member
    Messages: 35

    My understanding may be a little different than y'alls because I'm in Texas, but our high clay soils are mainly Montmorillonite and other 2:1 clays. The surface area of these types of clays have a large surface area that allows for a lot of water to be absorbed into the pores. That's why you see the extreme cracks during drought conditions- when at field capacity, the clay swells immensely, but shrinks considerably when low in water content.

    Even though the soil particles form larger colloids, there is still a pretty big amount of empty space in between the particles. In my soil class, it was explained like this- even though the clay particles are larger, and create large colloids, they can be thought of as a bunch of loose cinder blocks randomly piled up. Even though the area it takes up is big, there is a ton of empty space. On the other hand, soils with smaller particles (sand and silt) are like a bunch of bricks in a pile- it may take up a smaller overall area, but the empty space between the particles is not that big.

    These clay colloids, whether they be platy, columnar, or others, hold lots of water and allow better percolation because of the "randomness" of the particles, whereas a structureless soil may be more tightly packed similar to a stacked cinder block wall.

    However, compaction from increased traffic or other reasons can lead to less infiltration and percolation because the clay compacts easily. There is a reason that golf course superintendents are deep-tine aerating after a heavy topdress on their greens- to introduce some sand or organic material into the soil profile to loosen up the soil.

    Forgive me if I'm way off base- I'm still trudging though graduate school and learning new things every day!
  8. americanlawn

    americanlawn LawnSite Fanatic
    from midwest
    Messages: 5,955

    This is cool stuff. NW Iowa farm -- we sometimes found limestone rocks with fossil imprints from sea creatures. Iowa was actually under water millions of years ago.

    TCW -- When I worked for ChemLawn in San Antonio, we had what you're saying. "Caliche" soil and limestone within an inch of so below the surface.

    I never mow my lawn (ZTR) when the soil is moist/wet. I will wait -- even if I have to double cut it. Maybe it's the 'farmer' in me. I figure you guys are the same way. (thanks)
  9. DA Quality Lawn & YS

    DA Quality Lawn & YS LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,296

    Iowa soils are the cream of the crop, I know this being born and raised down there and NOW having to dig in mucky, wet, hardpan, rocky MN clay.
  10. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Your use of the word "colloid" has me thinking that you are talking about "aggregates, but I'm confused on where you're coming from... I understand that trying to assimilate a bunch of information quickly can sometimes make everything one big ball of data, when in university...

    Correct me if I'm wrong:
    Colloid........ is an individual particle...
    Aggregate... is multiple particles(colloids) glued together...

    Clay is a tiny particle, while sand is the larger particle...

    Are we both on the same page??? :)

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