Soil productivity and other soil functions are dependent on processes in the untilled subsoil. Undisturbed soil cores were collected at the 0.3- to 0.4-m depth from a heavy clay soil in Finland subjected to a single heavy traffic event by agricultural machinery three decades before sampling. Untrafficked control plots were used as a reference. Computed tomography (CT) scanning was performed on soil cores at a field-sampled field capacity water content. Gas diffusion and air permeability were measured when the soil cores were drained to −1000 hPa matric potential (air permeability also at −100 and −300 hPa). The air-filled pore space was measured with an air pycnometer and also calculated from mass balance and CT data. Gas diffusion and air permeability were also measured on a straight model tube and on autoclaved aerated concrete. The compaction treatment had not influenced soil total porosity but had significantly lowered the volume fraction of air-filled macropores at the matric potentials investigated. The compacted soil displayed significantly lower air permeability, while gas diffusivity was not affected. Our analyses indicate that this was due to a compaction-induced reduction in the cross-sectional area of vertical, arterial macropores and in the volume of marginal pores branching from these vertical pores. We observed non-Darcian air flow during air permeability measurements and thus suggest the use of a nonlinear regression technique based on measurements at several pressure differences to arrive at true Darcian air permeability. The tests on artificial materials supported the conclusions that the dominating pores in this clayey subsoil are nearly straight, vertical macropores.
Soil Science Society of America. Journal, 2013, Vol 77, Issue 6, p. 1977-1990