Non-invasive acoustic-seismic sensing of soils

Lead Research Organisation: Rothamsted Research
Department Name: Unlisted


The lack of suitable methods to measure soil physical characteristics directly that are relevant to crop growth and soil environmental function (e.g. absorption of high intensity rainfall) are barriers to the development of approaches for sustainable soil management. The acoustical properties of air-filled porous media, such as soil, have been studied widely in various contexts. Models for these properties incorporate parameters related to the frame elasticity and the pore structure.
1. To extend the theory and develop the algorithms required to conjunctively interpret data for acoustic reflection from soil and acoustic-to-seismic coupling in terms of internal stresses in soil, thus enabling (a) detection of hardpans (b) quantification of the amount of moisture and (c) deduction of the extent of connected macro-porosity in soil.
2. To validate the algorithms through well-defined laboratory experiments on model poroelastic systems and on real soils under laboratory conditions.
3. To validate the algorithms under field conditions in previously well-characterised sites and to develop the capability to sense how well soils function as environments for root elongation in situ and without disturbance.


10 25 50
Description We have found that soil properties relevant to the growth of agricultural crops can be measured using seismic waves. We have also demonstrated that this approach can be used non-invasively.
Exploitation Route A non-invasive method for sensing/imaging of soil structure and the mechanical strength of soil would permit better decisions about appropriate soil management practices. This project as established that this approach is feasible. We are currently seeking funding to take this work forward.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description Our findings have been used to develop our understanding of how soil structure affects rooting depth. We anticipate the outputs of this project will be used to develop a new project proposal to the NERC/NSF call on "signals in soil"
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Societal,Economic