Drip irrigation wetting patterns and nitrate distribution: comparison between electrical resistivity (ERI), dye tracer, and 2D soil-water
Hardie, M and Ridges, J and Swarts, N and Close, D, Drip irrigation wetting patterns and nitrate distribution: comparison between electrical resistivity (ERI), dye tracer, and 2D soil-water, Irrigation Science, 36, (2) pp. 97-110. ISSN 0342-7188 (2018) [Refereed Article]
Despite the widespread use of drip irrigation and fertigation, there is limited research on soil wetting patterns and nutrient distribution from drip emitters in agricultural soils. We compared the use of electrical resistivity imaging (ERI) with dye tracer patterns, measured soil nitrate distribution, and modelled changes in soil moisture and nitrate distribution, in a commercial apple orchard in southern Tasmania. Time-lapse two-dimensional ERI revealed wetting plumes beneath the emitters ranged from nil infiltration, to infiltration beyond 1.0 m depth. Lack of infiltration beneath some emitters was attributed to runoff caused by either water repellence or the surface leaf mulch, whilst infiltration to 1.0 m depth was attributed to preferential flow processes. The uncalibrated ERT was unable to discern the separate contributions from of solute concentration, moisture content and temperature to the change in electrical resistivity. The dye tracer study revealed the majority of the fertigated nitrate was retained in the A1 horizon, whilst the fertigated water infiltrated much deeper into the A2 and B2 horizons. The 2D modelling was not able to replicate the variations in infiltration demonstrated by the ERT, principally due to the lumped nature of the soil parameterisation, and inability of the model to simulate preferential flow. As such, use of modelling tools and texture-based guidelines for design and management of drip emitters is not recommended for the texture contrast soils.