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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 22, issue 10 | Copyright
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 22, 5427-5444, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 23 Oct 2018

Research article | 23 Oct 2018

Small-scale characterization of vine plant root water uptake via 3-D electrical resistivity tomography and mise-à-la-masse method

Benjamin Mary1, Luca Peruzzo2,3, Jacopo Boaga1, Myriam Schmutz3, Yuxin Wu4, Susan S. Hubbard4, and Giorgio Cassiani1 Benjamin Mary et al.
  • 1Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università degli Studi di Padova, Via G. Gradenigo, 6–35131 Padova, Italy
  • 2GO-Energy, Geosciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Building 74, Calvin Road, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 3EA G&E 4592, Bordeaux INP, University Bordeaux Montaigne, Pessac, France
  • 4Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

Abstract. The investigation of plant roots is inherently difficult and often neglected. Being out of sight, roots are often out of mind. Nevertheless, roots play a key role in the exchange of mass and energy between soil and the atmosphere, in addition to the many practical applications in agriculture. In this paper, we propose a method for roots imaging based on the joint use of two electrical noninvasive methods: electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) and mise-à-la-masse (MALM). The approach is based on the key assumption that the plant root system acts as an electrically conductive body, so that injecting electrical current into the plant stem will ultimately result in the injection of current into the subsoil through the root system, and particularly through the root terminations via hair roots. Evidence from field data, showing that voltage distribution is very different whether current is injected into the tree stem or in the ground, strongly supports this hypothesis. The proposed procedure involves a stepwise inversion of both ERT and MALM data that ultimately leads to the identification of electrical resistivity (ER) distribution and of the current injection root distribution in the three-dimensional soil space. This, in turn, is a proxy to the active (hair) root density in the ground. We tested the proposed procedure on synthetic data and, more importantly, on field data collected in a vineyard, where the estimated depth of the root zone proved to be in agreement with literature on similar crops. The proposed noninvasive approach is a step forward towards a better quantification of root structure and functioning.

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