Soil Physics, Soil Mechanics, and Agricultural by quo16250


									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.,

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

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