Abstract

We reviewed the use of the van Genuchten–Mualem (VGM) model to parameterize soil hydraulic properties and for developing pedotransfer functions (PTFs). Analysis of literature data showed that the moisture retention characteristic (MRC) parameterization by setting shape parameters m = 1 − 1/n produced the largest deviations between fitted and measured water contents for pressure head values between 330 (log10 pressure head [pF] 2.5) and 2500 cm (pF 3.4). The Schaap–van Genuchten model performed best in describing the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity, K. The classical VGM model using fixed parameters produced increasingly higher root mean squared residual, RMSR, values when the soil became drier. The most accurate PTFs for estimating the MRC were obtained when using textural properties, bulk density, soil organic matter, and soil moisture content. The RMSR values for these PTFs approached those of the direct fit, thus suggesting a need to improve both PTFs and the MRC parameterization. Inclusion of the soil water content in the PTFs for K only marginally improved their prediction compared with the PTFs that used only textural properties and bulk density. Including soil organic matter to predict K had more effect on the prediction than including soil moisture. To advance the development of PTFs, we advocate the establishment of databases of soil hydraulic properties that (i) are derived from standardized and harmonized measurement procedures, (ii) contain new predictors such as soil structural properties, and (iii) allow the development of time-dependent PTFs. Successful use of structural properties in PTFs will require parameterizations that account for the effect of structural properties on the soil hydraulic functions.

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