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Dazhi Li, Martin Schrön, Markus Köhli, Heye Bogena, Jannis Weimar, Miguel Angel Jiménez Bello, Xujun Han, Maria Amparo Martínez Gimeno, Steffen Zacharias, Harry Vereecken, Harrie-Jan Hendricks Franssen, …, Markus Köhli
Can Drip Irrigation be Scheduled with Cosmic-Ray Neutron Sensing?
Irrigation is essential for maintaining food production in water-scarce regions. The irrigation need depends on the water content of the soil, which we measured with the novel technique of cosmic-ray neutron sensing (CRNS). The potential of the CRNS technique for drip irrigation scheduling was explored in this study for the Picassent site near Valencia, Spain. To support the experimental evidence, the neutron transport simulation URANOS was used to simulate the effect of drip irrigation on the neutron counts. The overall soil water content (SWC) in the CRNS footprint was characterized with a root mean square error <0.03 cm3/cm3, but the experimental dataset indicated methodological limitations to detect drip water input. Both experimental data and simulation results suggest that the large-area neutron response to drip irrigation is insignificant in our specific case using a standard CRNS probe. Because of the small area of irrigated patches and short irrigation time, the limited SWC changes due to drip irrigation were not visible from the measured neutron intensity changes. Our study shows that CRNS modeling can be used to assess the suitability of the CRNS technique for certain applications. While the standard CRNS probe was not able to detect small-scale drip irrigation patterns, the method might be applicable for larger irrigated areas, in drier regions, and for longer and more intense irrigation periods. Since statistical noise is the main limitation of the CRNS measurement, the capability of the instrument could be improved in future studies by larger and more efficient neutron detectors.