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Electrical Geophysical Methods in Agriculture

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


4th Symposium on Intelligent Information Technology in Agriculture (ISIITA), China National Engineering Research Center for Information Technology in Agriculture NERCITA, p.457 - 471 (2007)



Conventional methods of electrical geophysics, i.e. vertical electrical sounding, four-electrode probe, non-contact electromagnetic profiling, and self-potential were modified for shallow agricultural and environmental studies. The methods have been applied in Russia for soil research the last forty years. In a last decade methods of electrical conductivity (EC) became increasingly popular in USA and worldwide to assist in precision agriculture practices. Several on-the-go soil EC sensors were developed and successfully applied. Our group together with Landviser, LLC has developed two portative geophysical devices, LandMapper ERM-01 and ERM-02 measuring electrical conductivity, resistivity and potential and suitable for mapping agricultural production fields as well as small agronomy research plots. The devices can also be used in lysimeters, greenhouses and on soil samples in laboratory. Compared with conventional methods of soil analysis, the electrical geophysical methods allowed evaluating groundwater table, salt content, depth and thickness of soil horizons, polluted or disturbed layers in soil profiles, and stone content with an estimation error <10%. The methods provide extensive data on spatial and temporal variations in soil electrical properties, which relate to the distributions of other essential soil properties. The electrical properties were incorporated with the data from conventional soil analyses via geostatistical methods to enhance the estimation of a number of soil physical and chemical properties and to assist soil survey. This paper presents brief introduction into the soil electrophysics and demonstrates various applications of the modified geophysical methods in soil physics, soil genesis, precision agriculture, and environmental engineering.