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NOTES A PROCEDURE FOR THE SAMPLING AND TESTING OF LARGE SOIL CORES1 K. K. WATSON AND S. J.

LEES2 Abstract The significance of acquiring reliable data on the soil-water characteristics of field soils is discussed in relation to the input requirements of computer-based numerical models of the unsaturated flow process. A specification outlining the conditions to be fulfilled in sampling and testing a large soil core is then detailed. Equipment used in extracting a 40-cm-diam soil core is described together with relevant laboratory instrumentation. Additional Index Words: soil water, soil water pressure, undisturbed soil core.

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environmental conditions. The main disadvantages of the approach lie in the difficulty of monitoring the water balance of the monolith by direct means and the necessity of taking sophisticated and expensive equipment to the field (often in reasonably remote areas) to make the necessary measurements. If a fully instrumented caravan were available, this latter problem could be satisfactorily overcome; however, considerable periods in the field would be required. Materials and Methods This Note describes an alternative to the in situ measurement, namely the recovery of a large soil core from the field and the testing of the hydrologic properties of the core in the laboratory. The design specification for such an alternative may be summarized as follows: (a) A profile depth of approximately 100 cm is required in the soil core to give a significant characterization of the nearsurface horizons. (b) The area of the core should be large enough to "average out" some of the local soil inhomogeneities. (c) The mass of the core and container should be limited to approximately 350 kg to facilitate transport to the laboratory. (d) A mobile and inexpensive means of extracting the core is required. (e) The core should be instrumented with nondestructive water-content measuring equipment and with rapid-response soil-water pressure sensors so that any hysteresis in the soil water characteristics can be measured, together with the movement of water under the infiltration, redistribution, and evaporation processes. (f) To prevent the development of a water table condition in the core following intermittent infiltration-redistribution sequences, a controllable lower boundary is required to maintain an unsaturated condition at the base and thus simulate in an approximate manner the conditions of the natural profile. (g) The core should be supported by a weighing mechanism so that the water balance can be continuously monitored, (h) Where stratification of a fine over coarse material is well defined in the profile, instrumentation facilities should be available to monitor possible wetting front instability (Hill and Parlange, 1972) and to measure any resultant pressure differential that may exist across a horizontal section. A' study of the above specification indicates that the main disadvantages are the imposed base boundary condition and the impossibility of simulating accurately in the laboratory the environmental changes to which natural soils are subjected. In any particular project these disadvantages must be balanced against those stated earlier for the field monolith method when deciding on the technique to be used. In the present study a seam-welded mild steel pipe of wall thickness 4.8 mm and internal diameter 40.2 cm was used as the cylindrical container for sampling the field profile. A 115cm length of this pipe was machined at each end and then galvanized. The pipe was drilled and tapped in 45 positions down its length for the later insertion of tensiometers and thermocouple psychrometers; brass plugs were screwed into the tapped holes. Lugs were welded to the outside circumference of the pipe near the top and the bottom, prior to galvanizing. The bottom lugs were used for attaching a 5-cm deep cutting edge. The procedure used in obtaining the sample was to force the sampling cylinder into the soil in depth increments of 5 to 7 cm. Before each incremental insertion of the cylinder the soil was cut away from around the cylinder to a depth of 5 to 10 cm below the bottom of the cutting edge, so that when the cylinder was forced into the soil a small amount of soil only had to be pared away by the cutting edge. This reduced the force required to insert the cylinder and ensured that there was minimum disturbance to the sample. Particular care had to be taken to make sure that the cylinder was driven in vertically and that no hori-

HE INCREASING USE of deterministic catchment models in hydrologic studies highlights the need for reliable information on the soil water characteristics of the nearsurface horizons of field soils. Detailed investigations of the infiltration behavior of field soils using infiltrometers have been common for the past 30 to 40 years (Horton, 1940; Wilm, 1943; Schiff, 1953; Watson, 1958).3 However, with such studies, the emphasis has been centered mainly on the surface flux condition with little attention being paid to the pattern of water movement in the profile; in addition, it has always been difficult to ensure that one-dimensional flow conditions have prevailed. Accordingly, the studies have provided little detailed knowledge on the time-dependent water storage characteristics of the profile and the soilwater redistribution regime. With the advent of computerbased numerical models, which are now able to monitor the soil-water conditions in a field profile under intermittent surface flux conditions (Lees and Watson, 1975)4, it has become necessary to have reliable input data on the soilwater characteristics of field soils. An experimental arrangement for determining the hysteresis and infiltration-redistribution characteristics of field soils has been described by Watson et al. (1975). In the study an undisturbed monolith of soil of hexagonal cross section and area 1.5 m2 was isolated from the surrounding soil. The base of the monolith was undisturbed, thus providing continuity with the underlying soil. Stability problems in the soil-water pressure measurements were encountered due to the temperature sensitivity of the tensiometer-pressure transducer system used. However, units can be designed (e.g. Watson, 1967) to overcome this problem thus allowing accurate water content and soil water pressure measurements for the field soil to be made under natural
1 Contribution from the School of Civil Engineering, The Univ. of New South Wales, Kensington, N.S.W., Australia. Received 6 Dec. 1974. Approved 23 Dec. 1974. 2 Associate Professor and Research Fellow, respectively. 3 K. K. Watson. 1958. Infiltration studies with particular reference to infiltrometer experiments on a small rural catchment. M.E. thesis, Univ. of New South Wales. 4 S. J. Lees and K. K. Watson. 1975. The use of a dependent domain model of hysteresis in numerical soil water studies. Water Resour. Res. (In press)

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Pulleys

SOIL SCI. SOC. AMER. PROC., VOL. 39, 1975 laboratory. The low cost of the cylinders would allow several samples to be taken in this manner over a catchment area. Experience has indicated that 1 day is required to obtain each sample. It is not intended in this Note to describe in detail the laboratory instrumentation; however, a brief description is appropriate in view of the specification outlined earlier. The water content was measured using the two-tube gamma attenuation method with a 3 mCi Cs-137 source in one stainless-steel tube and the scintillation detector in the other. The source and detector were both heavily collimated to give a water-content sampling area of 5 mm-depth and 2 cm-width. The tubes were spaced 15 cm apart. The soil-water pressure was measured using 20 tensiometer-pressure transducer units connected to a data acquisition system. The tensiometer ceramics were 1 cm in diameter and 2 cm long epoxied to brass tubing and inserted horizontally into the sample. Provision was also made for inserting up to 19 thermocouple psychrometers in the sample. A defined lower boundary condition was achieved by using a specially manufactured 1-bar ceramic plate 12 mm thick and 40 cm in diameter. This was epoxied into a recess in a plated mild steel housing and bolted to the bottom of the cylinder after the cutting edge had been removed. An appropriate suction (say 500 cm of water) was then maintained on the water in the air-tight reservoir behind the plate. The water balance was measured by supporting the entire assembly on three accurate load cells and connecting these to the data acquisition system. Discussion

Steal cylinder

The system described in this Note has proved to be a convenient and satisfactory method for determining the hydrologic characteristics of those field soils which exhibit only moderate swelling behavior. However, the difficulty of

assessing satisfactorily the non-Darcy flow through root


Fig. 1Sketch of portable driving equipment. zontal loading was applied that could fracture the core at the leading edge. Cores should be obtained when the soil is moist or wet. If the soil water content is low, it is advisable to irrigate the sampling area prior to sampling. The system used for driving the cylinder into the soil is sketched in Fig. i. It was both portable and inexpensive, and proved to be effective. The driving "hammer" comprised a cylinder of lead encased in a steel jacket of mass approximately 100 kg. This was dropped from a height of 3 to 4 m onto a large block of hardwood (approx. 50 cm by 40 cm by 30 cm) which rested on the top edge of the cylinder. The lead mass moved through guides in a vertical steel frame that was held in a stable position by four guys attached to the top of the frame. A small winch with a brake attachment was used to lift the mass via a wire rope and pulley system. When the cylinder had been forced into the soil to give a core of the required depth (100 to 110 cm) the lead mass was removed and the wire rope was attached to the lugs near the top edge of the cylinder. The dropping mechanism could then be used to lift the core and its cylinder. A small tension was applied to the wire rope to take the weight of the cylinder, and the soil beneath the cutting edge was cut through. The cylinder was then lifted approximately 10 cm. This allowed a 50-cm diam mild steel plate to be inserted under the soil core. The plate was bolted to the cylinder so that the core would not slide out of the cylinder during lifting. The winch was then used to lift the cylinder and core on to the tray of a truck for transport to the cracks and worm holes still remains. The surface flux measurements validly include these flow components but beneath the surface the situation is very complex due to the occurrence of a three-dimensional distribution of water initiated from a random series of surface entry points. Acknowledgments The financial assistance of the Water Research Foundation of Australia is acknowledged with thanks.