Pore-Space Dynamics in a Soil Aggregate Bed under a Static External Load

Ghezzehei, Teamrat A. and Or, Dani

Soil Science Society of America Journal, vol. 67(1), pp. 12 , 2003.


The loose and fragmented soil structure that results from tillage operations provides favorable physical conditions for plant growth. This desirable state is structurally unstable and deteriorates with time because of overburden, external stresses, and capillary forces. The objective of this study was to model these structural changes by coupling soil intrinsic rheological properties with geometry and arrangement of aggregates represented as monosized spheres. Calculations of interaggregate stresses and strains, and associated changes in density and porosity, were performed for a rhombohedral unit cell. Soil rheological properties determined by application of steady shear stress were used for calculations of strains under steady interaggregate stresses. The models developed herein correspond to the initial stage of deformation when discrete aggregates exist. At strains exceeding 0.12 the interaggregate voids are isolated and the current model no longer applies and an alternative approach is presented elsewhere. Unit cell calculations were up scaled to an aggregate-bed scale by considering a one-dimensional stack of unit cells, which allows only vertical stress transmission. The stress acting at an interaggregate contact is fully accommodated (dissipated) by viscous flow when it exceeds the yield stress (strength) of the aggregates. The stress is fully transmitted to subsequent unit cells when it is less than the yield stress. Plausibility of the models was demonstrated by illustrative examples that highlight the different features of the models. The results were in qualitative agreement with observations from the literature for deformation of either loose structure, and for highly dense cases close to maximal bulk density.