Soil penetration resistance and tree root development

Sinnett, D., Morgan, G., Williams, M. and Hutchings, T. (2008) Soil penetration resistance and tree root development. Soil Use and Management, 24 (3). pp. 273-280. ISSN 0266-0032 Available from:

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Current UK guidance suggests that a ‘rootable’ soil profile of at least 1.0 m depth should be sufficient to allow adequate rooting of the majority of tree species in a range of soil types and climatic conditions [Arboricultural Journal (1995) vol. 19, 19–27]. However, there is some uncertainty as to what constitutes a loosened soil profile in terms of penetration resistance. In this study the root development of Italian alder, Japanese larch, Corsican pine and birch was assessed after 5 years of tree growth. These data were compared to penetration resistance measured using both a cone penetrometer and a ‘lifting driving tool’ (dropping weight penetrometer). Tree root number and percentage were significantly reduced by increasing soil penetration resistance measured with both the cone penetrometer (P<0.050) and the ‘lifting driving tool’ (P=0.011 and 0.008 respectively). The vast majority of roots were recorded in soils with a penetration resistance of less than 3 MPa (90.7%) with a significant amount in the less than 2 MPa class (70.2%). Root development of Italian alder, Japanese larch and birch all showed a similar pattern, but Corsican pine appeared to be capable of rooting into more compact soils. The ‘lifting driving tool’ can be used as an alternative measure of soil penetration resistance. This equipment is more cost effective, easier to use and capable of measurements at a greater depth than the cone penetrometer. The majority of Japanese larch and birch roots (84.3%) were recorded in soils where it took less than 15 impacts to penetrate one 10 cm soil depth increment. The modelled data also suggest that a penetration resistance of 2 and 2.5 MPa relates to 10 and 15 impacts respectively.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:The definitive version is available at
Uncontrolled Keywords:soil compaction, penetration resistance, restored soils, tree root development
Faculty/Department:Faculty of Environment and Technology > Department of Architecture and the Built Environment
ID Code:7609
Deposited By: Dr D. Sinnett
Deposited On:20 May 2010 11:25
Last Modified:15 Nov 2016 23:40

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