The structure of the surface layer of the soil is strongly influenced by soil tillage practices, with important consequences for the hydraulic properties and soil moisture dynamics in the top soil layer. In this study, during four 28-d periods, we monitored L-band brightness temperatures and infrared (IR) temperatures over bare silt loam soil plots with different soil surface structure: tilled, seedbed, and compacted plots. Differences in absolute and normalized L-band brightness temperatures between the plots indicated that plot specific roughness, soil moisture contents, and soil hydraulic properties might be inverted from L-band brightness temperatures using a coupled radiative transfer, roughness correction, and soil hydrological model. The inversely estimated surface roughness parameters compared well with those derived from laser profiler measurements. The estimated saturated water contents of the tilled and seedbed plots were larger than the one of the compacted plot, and the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity was smaller in the former plots than in the compacted plot for more negative pressure heads. These differences in hydraulic properties translated into larger dynamics of the simulated soil moisture during a 28-d measurement period in the tilled and seedbed plots than in the compacted plot. This difference could be confirmed qualitatively but not quantitatively by in situ soil moisture measurements. Furthermore, differences in simulated actual evaporation rates between the plots were confirmed by observed differences in measured IR temperatures. The results indicate that effects of soil management on soil surface roughness and soil hydraulic properties could be inferred from L-band brightness temperatures.

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