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Soil Aeration and Temperature

Soil Aeration and Temperature

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Published by: Savannah Simone Petrachenko on Dec 05, 2011
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05/04/2012

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Soil Aeration & Temperature
Why Soil Air is Important
 
For the growth of plants and the activity of soil micro-organisms,soil aeration can be just as important as soil moisture status.
o
 
And it is often more difficult to manage.
 
Soil temperature is important for two reasons:
o
 
First, it affects the rate of plant growth and micro-organismpopulations
o
 
Second, it influences soil drying through evaporation.
 
Increasing soil temperatures influence soil aeration through theirstimulating effect on the growth of plants and soil organisms and onthe rates of biochemical activity.
The Nature of Soil Aeration
 
Aeration involves the ventilation of soil.
o
 
In this process, gases move in and out of the soil.
 
Aeration determines:
o
 
The rate of gas exchange with the atmosphere
o
 
The proportion of pore spaces filled with air
o
 
The composition of the soil air
o
 
The resulting chemical oxidation or reduction potential in thesoil
 
Oxygen and carbon dioxide, along with water, are primaryingredients for two vital biological processes:
o
 
Respiration of all plants and animals
o
 
Photosynthesis that creates sugars
 
Respiration:
o
 
Consumes O2 and produces CO2
o
 
Oxidizes sugar compounds (e.g. C6H12O6 + O6 = 6CO2 +6H2O)
 
Photosynthesis:
o
 
Creates sugars (e.g. 6CO2 + 6H2O = C6H12O6 + O6)
o
 
Releases O2
 
Soil Aeration in the Field
 
Oxygen availability in soil is regulated by three factors:
o
 
Soil macroporosity (as affected by texture and structure)
o
 
Soil water content (as it affects the proportion of the porespaces filled with air)
o
 
O2 consumption by respiring organisms (including plant rootsand micro-organisms).
 
Poor soil aeration becomes a serious issue when more than 80% of 
the soil’s macropores are filled with water leaving less than 20% of 
these pore spaces filled with air for two reasons:
o
 
Little pore space for air storage
o
 
Water blocks the exchange of gases between the soil andatmosphere
o
 
Compaction also blocks this exchange even when the soil isnot wet
 
The more rapidly roots and microbes use up O2 and release CO2,the greater the need for the exchange of gases between the soiland atmosphere. This exchange is made possible by twomechanisms:
o
 
Mass flow
o
 
Diffusion
 
Mass flow is less important than diffusion. It is enhanced byfluctuations in soil moisture content as the water forces the air outof the soil.
 
The great bulk of gaseous exchange is achieved through diffusion.
o
 
Little pore space for air storage
o
 
Water blocks the exchange of gases between the soil andatmosphere
 
The great bulk of gaseous exchange is achieved through diffusion.
o
 
This is achieved as each gas moves in a direction determinedby its own partial pressure.
o
 
There is no pressure gradient between the soil air and theatmosphere for the air as a mixture of gases. There are,however, a concentration gradient for each individual gas that
 
makes up the “atmosphere” and this is expressed a
s a partialpressure gradient.
o
 
Because of the restrictions associated with soil air movement,the concentrations of individual gases is different in the soilthan in the atmosphere
there is generally more CO2 in soilair and less O2.
o
 
As a consequence of the higher concentration of O2 in theatmosphere, there is a net movement of O2 into the soil.Similarly, due to higher concentrations of CO2 (and watervapour) in the soil, these have a net movement out of thesoil.
Characterizing Soil Aeration
 
The aeration status of a soil can be characterized in three ways:
o
 
The content of O2 and other gases in the soil air
o
 
The air-filled soil porosity
o
 
The chemical oxidation-reduction (Redox) potential of the soil
Gaseous Composition of Soil Air
 
From what we just talked about, the gaseous composition of soil airdiffers from the atmosphere.
 
The atmosphere contains nearly 21% O2, 0.035% CO2, and morethan 78% N2. Soil air has about the same level of N2, but lowerlevels of O2 and higher levels of CO2.
 
O2 levels vary from only slightly lower in the macropores near thesurface to less than 5% or even zero in the lower horizons of poorlydrained soils with few macropores.
 
Even slight increases in CO2 can be toxic to plants.
 
Other gases can build up in soils too under waterlogged conditions
methane (CH4), hydrogen sulphide (H25), and ethylene (C2H4)
Soil Porosity
 
We know that in an ideal soil, you would have close to a 50:50 ratiobetween soil water and soil air or 25% by volume of air.

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