1.3 Infiltration Rate
Soil health indicator: understand how well water moves through your soil structure by timing how long it takes for water to infiltrate into the ground in seconds
Infiltration rate is a good indicator of soil structure and therefore, soil health, as infiltration depends on the level of aggregation (crumb structure) that has formed in the topsoil. Better aggregated (healthy) soils allow water to percolate much faster than poor soils. It can also be an indicator of compaction or thin soils.
The testing area should not be saturated so if it has rained heavily wait until the area is a bit drier!
- 150mm x 150mm metal/plastic tubes (with 85mm depth marked)
- Water bottle with 450ml marked on it – (this equates to 1″ depth of water when poured into the cylinder)
- Water (4L or so per field)
- Mallet – for driving tube into soil (optional)
- Wood block – to protect from damage when hammering in (optional)
- Stopwatch (on phone)
See below for details of materials and how to make the infiltration ring etc
- Locate your chosen sample site – you can use the GPS mapping feature on the app to do this if you’ve recorded the sample locations previously.
- It’s very important to remove all debris, weeds and vegetation ~ 150mm x 150mm square – either trim these down or cut through with a knife
- Insert the cylinder/tin into the bare ground, to 85mm depth
- Firm soil gently on the inside of the tube
- Measure out exactly 450ml of water from your pre-marked water bottle
- Pour water into cylinder and start timer
- Stop timer when all the water has disappeared into the ground and the surface is just glistening. Record the time in the app.
- Repeat steps 5-7. Record this second time in the app. We do this because often the second time gives a better indication of the real infiltration rate that is less dependent on recent weather, as the first test just wets the soil. If the soil is already quite saturated you may find there is very little difference in the first and second times.
- You can stop here, or if you want to be very confident in your infiltration rate reading or if it has been particularly dry, then it’s worth repeating steps 5-7 again a couple more times to ensure you are getting a representative infiltration rate.
If it’s happening very slowly, carry-out other tests nearby and check back on it every few minutes.
If you want to work out your infiltration rate in inches/hr. Do 3600/no. of seconds, this gives you the number of inches/hr. If you want to know mm/hr then divide your answer by 25.4.
e.g 20 seconds. Is 3600/20 = 180 inches/hr.
180/25.4 = 7mm/hr
Read this article to find out how many times to do the infiltration rate test on each field.
What to record in the Sectormentor for Soils app:
- Number of seconds it takes for water to disappear.
- Take a photo too
How to Make the Infiltration Test equipment
- 150mm steel fluepipe
- permanent marker
- ruler/tape measure
- sharpening file
- saw (if using pipe)
- water bottle
- measuring jug (ml)
- Cut piping into 150mm sections (ideally with a mitre or chop saw)
- Sharpen one end of the ring with a file (helps to drive into ground more easily/reduce soil disturbance)
- Measure 85mm from the sharp end of the ring and mark a strong line with permanent marker (this shows to what depth you should bury the ring into the ground).
- In the measuring jug, measure 444ml of water.
- Pour this into the water bottle and mark the height of the water with the marker (this makes it easy to have a constant height of 1″ of water trying to infiltrate the soil within the ring).
- Now you have your ring for going in the ground and accompanying bottle with the correct height of water to pour in the ring.
Infiltration rate pipe made from a drainpipe at Hampton Estate: