Experiments on evaporation from freely drained soils are described. Under isothermal conditions characteristic winter field behaviour is obtained, even when the air drying power is greater than its normal English midsummer value. Characteristic summer field behaviour is obtained when the rapid drying of a thin surface layer is achieved, either by using an extremely high air temperature under ‘isothermal’ conditions, or by raising the surface temperature by means of radiation—the normal method in nature. The effect of a high salt concentration in the soil water is shown to lead to greater evaporation losses and to a tendency for the salt to concentrate in the more salty patches.
It is suggested that mulching will only be beneficial during the isothermal part of the year, i.e. when soil surface and air temperature are approximately equal, and that it will have little effect on water conservation where the soil will be self mulched by the action of summer sunshine. The cause of this self-mulching action is briefly considered in the light of our limited knowledge of soil water dynamics; it appears to depend on the existence of a dual mechanism of water movement in soils—as liquid and as vapour—the rates of movement being very different functions of moisture content and moisture gradient.
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