Water infiltration is the soil's ability to allow water movement into and through the soil profile. Good infiltration gets water to plants where they need it: at their roots. It also prevents runoff and erosion, and allows air to move more efficiently into soil pores. So how can you test your soil’s infiltration?
- Take an empty coffee can and remove the bottom
- Push the now bottomless can into the soil until just 3 inches remain above the surface
- Fill the can with water, and mark the water height
- Use a timer to see how long it takes for the water to be absorbed into the soil
- Repeat this several times until the rate of absorption slows and your times become consistent
- Anything slower than 1/2 to 1 inch per hour is an indication of compacted soil
If your soil’s water infiltration rate isn’t where you want it to, several measures can be taken. These include using subsoil to break up compacted layers, applying organic material, avoiding soil disturbance and equipment use when the soil is wet and planting cover crops.