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A New Automated Passive Capillary Lysimeter for Logging Real-Time Drainage Water Fluxes

Jabro, Jay D., Iversen, William M., Stevens, William B., Allen, Brett L., Sainju, Upendra M.
Applied engineering in agriculture 2017 v.33 no.6 pp. 849-857
agricultural engineering, corn, cropping systems, drainage, drainage water, instrumentation, logging, lysimeters, microprocessors, monitoring, rhizosphere, sandy loam soils, soil profiles, soil temperature, soil water, soybeans, sprinkler irrigation, statistical analysis, surface area, vadose zone, water potential
Effective monitoring of chemical transport through the soil profile requires accurate and appropriate instrumentation to measure drainage water fluxes below the root zone of cropping systems. The objectives of this study were to methodically describe in detail the construction and installation of a novel automated PCAP (passive capillary) lysimeter design, and to evaluate the efficacy of this design for logging and monitoring real-time drainage water fluxes occurring below the root zone of corn ( L.) and soybean ( L.) under an overhead sprinkler irrigation system. Sixteen cylindrical PCAP lysimeters with outside dimensions of 32.39 cm in diameter ×74.8 cm height (1000 cm2 surface area) were designed, constructed, and placed 90 cm below the soil surface in a Lihen sandy loam. Two watermark soil moisture and temperature sensors were positioned at 30 and 76 cm depths above each PCAP to monitor soil temperature and water potential continuously. This new design incorporated wireless spread spectrum technology to enable an automated datalogger to transmit drainage water amounts simultaneously every 15 min to a remote host. Logged drainage amounts were compared with those manually collected using several statistical methods. The root mean square error (RMSE), the logging efficacy (EF), and the mean difference (MD) were 0.0375, 0.964 and 0.0335 cm, respectively, for 4-yr combined data. The MD between logged and collected drainage amounts was very small and not significantly different from zero for 4-yr combined results. Statistical results indicated that the new lysimeter performed exceptionally well and was capable of monitoring drainage water fluxes in the vadose zone. Real-time seamless monitoring and logging drainage water fluxes was thus possible without the need for costly time-consuming supportive procedures.