Plant and Soil

, Volume 335, Issue 1–2, pp 229–244 | Cite as

Soil water availability for plants as quantified by conventional available water, least limiting water range and integral water capacity

  • Hossein Asgarzadeh
  • Mohammad Reza Mosaddeghi
  • Ali Akbar Mahboubi
  • Akram Nosrati
  • Anthony Roger Dexter
Regular Article


There are different approaches to define the soil available water (SAW) for plants. The objectives of this study are to evaluate the SAW values of 12 arable soils from Hamadan province (western Iran) calculated by plant available water (PAW), least limiting water range (LLWR) and integral water capacity (IWC) approaches and to explore their relations with Dexter’s index of soil physical quality (i.e., S-value). Soil water retention and mechanical resistance were determined on the intact samples which were taken from the 5–10 cm layer. For calculation of LLWR and IWC, the van Genuchten-Mualem model was fitted to the observed soil water retention data. Two matric suctions (h) of 100 and 330 cm were used for the field capacity (FC). There were significant differences (P < 0.01) between the SAW values calculated by PAW100, PAW330, LLWR100, LLWR330 and IWC. The highest (i.e., 0.210 cm3 cm−3) and the lowest (i.e., 0.129 cm3 cm−3) means of SAW were calculated for the IWC and LLWR330, respectively. The upper limit of LLWR330 for all of the soils was h of 330 cm, and that of LLWR100 (except for one soil that was air-filled porosity of 0.1 cm3 cm−3) was h of 100 cm. The lower limit of LLWR330 and LLWR100 for five soils was h of 15,000 cm and for seven soils was mechanical resistance of 2 MPa. The IWC values were smaller than those of LLWR100 for two soils, equal to those of LLWR100 for three soils and greater than those of LLWR100 for the rest. There is, therefore, a tendency to predict more SAW using the IWC approach than with the LLWR approach. This is due to the chosen critical soil limits and gradual changes of soil limitations vs. water content in the IWC calculation procedure. Significant relationships of SAW with bulk density or relative bulk density were found but not with the clay and organic matter contents. Linear relations between IWC and LLWR100 or LLWR330 were found as: IWC = −0.0514 + 1.4438LLWR100, R 2 = 0.83; and IWC = −0.0405 + 2.0465LLWR330, R 2 = 0.84, respectively (both significant at P < 0.01). Significant relationships were obtained between the SAW values and S indicating the suitability of the index S to explain the availability of soil water for plants even when complicated approaches like IWC are considered. Overall, the results demonstrate the importance of the choice of the approach to be used and its critical limits in the estimation of the soil available water to plants.


Soil available water content Soil water retention Soil mechanical resistance Least limiting water range Integral water capacity Soil physical quality 



We would like to thank Bu-Ali Sina University for the financial support of the study. Special appreciation is extended to Prof. J. Letey of University of California at Riverside, USA, and Prof. P.H. Groenevelt of University of Guelph, Canada for their valuable comments and thoughtful reviewing of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hossein Asgarzadeh
    • 1
  • Mohammad Reza Mosaddeghi
    • 2
  • Ali Akbar Mahboubi
    • 1
  • Akram Nosrati
    • 1
  • Anthony Roger Dexter
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Soil Science, College of AgricultureBu-Ali Sina UniversityHamadanIran
  2. 2.Department of Soil Science, College of AgricultureIsfahan University of TechnologyIsfahanIran
  3. 3.Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation (IUNG)PulawyPoland

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