Soil Physics, Soil Mechanics, and Agricultural Engineering Related to Soil Structure B.P. Warkentin Department of Crop and Soil Science, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331-7306, U.S.A., firstname.lastname@example.org These separate disciplines, all dealing with physical behaviour of soils, developed from applications for different soil uses. At different times, they contributed jointly to understanding and solution of specific soil science problems. The questions posed are how did they interact, on what topics, and why at specific times. Soils have been used for millennia as building materials, dams, and canal construction. Soil mechanics was developed as applied mechanics in the 1930s and the theoretical background for behaviour developed after the 1950s when research studies increased. Small, engineered structures for agriculture e.g. erosion control or drainage were developed in the 1800s, but agricultural engineering developed with mechanization in the 20th century, originally as farm mechanics and later as part of engineering. Soil physics is the oldest discipline, with experiments carried out by land owners from the 1700s, and scientifically designed field and laboratory experiments after 1850. By 1900 textbooks were available. Soil physics and agricultural engineering shared in the development of knowledge and application of erosion control, drainage and irrigation, largely in the first half of the 20th century. This cooperation was especially productive in management of paddy fields in Japan. Studies on whether soil properties could predict engineering behaviour united soil physics and soil mechanics from 1950 – 1970. The most recent node of contact for all three disciplines is application of unsaturated water flow information on the field scale e.g. in nuclear waste fuel storage sites or control of ground water pollution. Tillage, compaction, roads, swelling soils, explaining soil behavior, reclamation, and environmental quality are some nodes of contact. Some joint studies have sought understanding of concepts and principles, but mostly the strands came together through transfer of ideas, through teaching and through cooperation in solution of practical problems.
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