Model for water infiltration in vegetated soil with preferential flow oriented by plant roots

Andrew Mair*, Lionel X. Dupuy, Mariya Ptashnyk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


There is strong experimental evidence that root systems substantially change the hydraulic properties of soil. However, the mechanisms by which they do this remain largely unknown. In this work, we made the hypothesis that a preferential flow of soil moisture occurs in directions which follow the orientation and distribution of roots within the soil, and that this phenomenon alters soil moisture flow patterns.

We modified Richards’ equation to incorporate root-oriented preferential flow of soil moisture. Using the finite element method and Bayesian optimisation, we developed a pipeline to calibrate our model with respect to a given root system.

When applied to simulated root distributions, our model produced pore-water pressure profiles which agreed with those derived from experimental saturated hydraulic conductivity values of soils vegetated with willow and grass. Agreement improved for simulated root distributions where root segments were oriented in a more realistic way, suggesting that the hydraulic characteristics of vegetated soils are a consequence of root-oriented preferential flow.

By incorporating root-oriented preferential flow, our model improves the ability to describe and analyse water infiltration through vegetated soil. This could help optimise irrigation, forecast flood events and plan landslide prevention strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-729
Number of pages21
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1-2
Early online date18 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Bayesian optimisation
  • Infiltration in vegetated soil
  • Richards equation
  • Root-oriented preferential flow
  • Root-soil interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science


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