11 Jul 2022
11 Jul 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal GI.

Feasibility of Irrigation Monitoring with Cosmic-ray Neutron Sensors

Cosimo Brogi1, Heye Reemt Bogena1, Markus Köhli2, Johan Alexander Huisman1, Harrie-Jan Hendricks Franssen1, and Olga Dombrowski1 Cosimo Brogi et al.
  • 1Agrosphere Institute (IBG-3), Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, 52425 Jülich, Germany
  • 2Physikalisches Institut, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany

Abstract. Accurate soil moisture (SM) monitoring is key in irrigation as it can greatly improve water use efficiency. Recently, Cosmic-Ray Neutron Sensors (CRNS) have been recognized as a promising tool in SM monitoring due to their large footprint of several hectares. CRNS have great potential for irrigation applications, but few studies have investigated whether irrigation monitoring with CRNS is feasible, especially for irrigated fields with a size smaller than the CRNS footprint. Therefore, the aim of this work is to use Monte Carlo simulations to investigate the feasibility of monitoring irrigation with CRNS. This was achieved by simulating irrigation scenarios with different field dimensions (from 0.5 ha to 8 ha) and SM variations between 0.05 and 0.50 cm3 cm-3. Moreover, the energy dependent response functions of eight moderators with different high-density polyethylene (HDPE) thickness or additional gadolinium thermal shielding were investigated. It was found that a considerable part of the neutrons that contribute to the CRNS footprint can originate outside an irrigated field, which is a challenge for irrigation monitoring with CRNS. The use of thin HDPE moderators (e.g., 5 mm) generally resulted in a smaller footprint and thus stronger contributions from the irrigated area. However, a thicker 25 mm HDPE moderator with gadolinium shielding improved SM monitoring in irrigated fields due to a higher sensitivity of neutron counts with changing SM. Such moderator and shielding provided high chances of detecting irrigation events, especially when the initial SM was relatively low. However, it was found that variations in SM outside a small, irrigated field (i.e., 0.5 and 1 ha) can affect the count rate more than SM variations due to irrigation. This suggests the importance of retrieving SM data from the surrounding of a target field to obtain more meaningful information for supporting irrigation management, especially for small irrigated fields.

Cosimo Brogi et al.

Status: open (until 26 Aug 2022)

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Cosimo Brogi et al.

Cosimo Brogi et al.


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Short summary
Accurate monitoring of water in soil can improve irrigation efficiency, which is important considering climate change and the growing world population. Cosmic-ray neutrons sensors (CRNS) are a promising tool in irrigation monitoring due to a larger sensed area and to lower maintenance than other point-scale sensors. Here, we analyse the feasibility of irrigation monitoring with CRNS and the impact of the irrigated field dimensions, of the variations of water in soil, and of instrument design.