Persistence of soil structural modifications along a historic wagon trail

B. Sharratt, W. Voorhees, Gordon C McIntosh, G. Lemme

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    22 Scopus citations


    Wagon wheel ruts are still visible along pioneer trails in the USA, which suggests that vehicular traffic can modify soil properties for a century. We compared physical properties of a Barnes loam (fine-loamy, mixed Udic Haploboroll) across three transects of the 1864 to 1871 Wadsworth Trail. Compaction was evident within wheel ruts of the trail, as penetration resistance and bulk density were 10% greater and water infiltration and air permeability were 50% lower within the wheel ruts than outside the trail. Erosion was also apparent within the wheel ruts, as the greater density could not fully account for the thinner A horizon (60 mm). Our investigation suggests that degradation of soil properties caused by compaction or erosion from wagon wheel or animal traffic may persist for >100 yr. This information underscores the importance that agricultural practices must minimize soil loss or compaction.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)774-777
    Number of pages4
    JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Jan 1 1998

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