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Experimental assessment of a new comprehensive model for single ring infiltration data


The objective of this paper was to evaluate a recently proposed comprehensive model for three-dimensional single-ring infiltration and its suitability for estimating soil hydraulic properties. Infiltration data from four different soils with contrasting characteristics were inverted to estimate field-saturated soil hydraulic conductivity, Kfs, values using a total of fourteen different scenarios. Those scenarios differed by: i) the way they constrained the macroscopic capillary length, λ, and the initial and saturated soil water contents, θi and θs, ii) the use of transient or steady-state data, and iii) the fitting methods applied to transient data. For comparative purposes, the SSBI method (Steady version of the Simplified method based on a Beerkan Infiltration run) was also applied. For validation purposes Kfs data estimated from the different scenarios were compared with those values obtained by numerical inverse modeling with HYDRUS-2D/3D. This comparison identified Approaches 1 and 3, which respectively estimate Kfs via optimization and using analytical expressions, as the most accurate methods. The steady-state scenario of Approach 4 and the SSBI method, both of which use a λ value of first approximation, appeared preferable for field campaigns aimed to sample remote or large areas, given that they do not need additional data and still provide acceptable estimates. The reliability of Kfs data was also checked through a comparison with unsaturated hydraulic conductivity, Kh, values measured in laboratory on extracted soil cores, in order to discriminate between theoretically possible (Kfs > Kh) and impossible (Kfs ≤ Kh) situations. Physically possible Kfs values were always obtained with the exception of the crusted soil, where Kfs < Kh situations suggested that the crust layer reduced water flow during ponding experiments in the field. The new comprehensive model tested in this study represents a valuable tool for analyzing both transient and steady-state infiltration data, as well as experiments carried out with different depths of ponded water, ring sizes and ring insertion depths.

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