Preferential flow and particle-facilitated transport through macropores contributes significantly to the transport of strongly sorbing substances such as pesticides and phosphorus. The aim of this study was to perform a field-scale characterization of basic soil physical properties like clay and organic carbon content and investigate whether it was possible to relate these to derived structural parameters such as bulk density and conservative tracer parameters and to actual particle and phosphorus leaching patterns obtained from laboratory leaching experiments. Sixty-five cylindrical soil columns of 20 cm height and 20 cm diameter and bulk soil were sampled from the topsoil in a 15 m 15 m grid in an agricultural loamy field. Highest clay contents and highest bulk densities were found in the northern part of the field. Leaching experiments with a conservative tracer showed fast 5% tracer arrival times and high tracer recovery percentages from columns sampled from the northern part of the field, and the leached mass of particles and particulate phosphorus was also largest from this area. Strong correlations were obtained between 5% tracer arrival time, tracer recovery, and bulk density, indicating that a few well-aligned and better connected macropores might change the hydraulic conductivity between the macropores and the soil matrix, triggering an on-set of preferential flow at lower rain intensities compared to less compacted soil. Overall, a comparison mapping of basic and structural characteristics including soil texture, bulk density, dissolved tracer, particle and phosphorus transport parameters identified the northern one-third of the field as a zone with higher leaching risk. This risk assessment based on parameter mapping from measurements on intact samples was in good agreement with nine years of pesticide detections in two horizontal wells and with particle and phosphorus leaching patterns from a distributed, shallow drainage pipe system across the field.
Journal of Environmental Quality, 2013, Vol 42, Issue 1, p. 271-283