Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana

Volumen 71, núm. 1, 2019, p. 1- 10



 Soil porosity changes in orchards with subsurface irrigation: quantification and interpretation 

Rosa M. Poch1*, Miquel Pascual2, Josep M. Villar1, Josep Rufat3

1Departament de Medi Ambient i Ciències del Sòl. Universitat de Lleida. Av. Rovira Roure, 191 E-25198 Lleida, Spain.

2Departament d’Hortofruticultura, Botànica i Jardineria. Universitat de Lleida. Av. Rovira Roure, 191 E-25198 Lleida, Spain.

3Programa d’Ús Eficient de l’Aigua. Institut de Recerca i Tecnologia Agroalimentàries (IRTA). Parc Científic i Tecnològic Agroalimentari de Lleida. Parc de Gardeny - Edifici Fruitcentre. E-25003 Lleida, Spain.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


In order to assess the irrigation efficiency under water-limiting conditions, four different treatments of subsurface irrigation of peach trees in a semi-arid Mediterranean climate near Lleida (NE Iberian Peninsula) were tested. The treatments included pressurized air injection, deficit irrigation, full irrigation (as control) and an addition of rice husk around the pipe to improve porosity. Because the latter treatment improved physical conditions and resulted in better tree growth, a micromorphological study was conducted in order to understand the reason for this behaviour. The experiment was carried out in a commercial peach orchard (Prunus persica L.). The soil was a Xeric Torriorthent (Soil Survey Staff, 1999), with a loam texture, affected by salinity and with low organic matter content. One undisturbed block (30 cm each side) was taken from each treatment, and two vertical thin sections, 5 × 13 cm, including the subsurface pipe, were made. A fluorescent dye was added to the polyester resin to obtain UV light images of the porosity. The pore parameters and the pore size distribution were obtained for each treatment. Strong changes in the pore types of the four treatments are evident in the thin sections. Full and deficit irrigation treatments are characterised by a weakly developed subangular blocky structure, with a vesicular intra-aggregate structure. Deficit irrigation with air injection produced, in its upper part, a structure similar to the full and deficit irrigation treatments. In the surroundings and below the pipe, where the effect of pressurized air was higher, the soil structure is apedal, with vesicles (bubbles), 200–500 µm in size. Porosity of the soil modified with rice husk is greater than that of the other three treatments: the 15–30 µm porosity fraction is double, and the larger fractions three times that of the other treatments. It contains many oval excrements of mites (probably Oribatidae), 50–100 µm in size, associated with moderately decomposed rice husk tissues. We conclude that the modifications around the irrigation pipes that promoted faunal activity are very effective in conveying water to the soil in comparison to that of pressurized air, which only increases vesicular (non connected) porosity.

Keywords: faunal activity, subsurface irrigation, micromorphology, pore size analyses, organic amendments, Ebro Valley.