The sprinkler irrigation method is widely applied in tea farms in the Yangtze River region, China, which is the most famous tea production area. Knowledge of the optimal irrigation time for the sprinkler irrigation system is vital for making the soil moisture range consistent with the root boundary to attain higher yield and water use efficiency. In this study, we investigated the characteristics of soil water infiltration and redistribution under the irrigation water applications rates of 4 mm/h, 6 mm/h, and 8 mm/h, and the slope gradients of 0°, 5°, and 15°. A new soil water infiltration model was established based on water application rate and slope gradient. Infiltration experimental results showed that soil water infiltration rate increased with the application rate when the slope gradient remained constant. Meanwhile, it decreased with the increase in slope gradient at a constant water application rate. In the process of water redistribution, the increment of volumetric water content (VWC) increased at a depth of 10 cm as the water application rate increased, which affected the ultimate infiltration depth. When the slope gradient was constant, a lower water application rate extended the irrigation time, but increased the ultimate infiltration depth. At a constant water application rate, the infiltration depth increased with the increase in slope gradient. As the results showed in the infiltration model validation experiments, the infiltration depths measured were 38.8 cm and 41.1 cm. The relative errors between measured infiltration depth and expected value were 3.1% and 2.7%, respectively, which met the requirement of the soil moisture range consistent with the root boundary. Therefore, this model could be used to determine the optimal irrigation time for developing a sprinkler irrigation control strategy for tea fields in the Yangtze River region.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited