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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: original research article 22 May 2019

Submitted as: original research article | 22 May 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal SOIL (SOIL).

Time-lapse monitoring of root water uptake using electrical resistivity tomography and Mise-à-la-Masse: a vineyard infiltration experiment

Benjamin Mary1, Luca Peruzzo2,3, Jacopo Boaga1, Nicola Cenni1, Myriam Schmutz3, Yuxin Wu2, Susan S. Hubbard2, and Giorgio Cassiani1 Benjamin Mary et al.
  • 1Dipartimento di Geoscienze, Università degli Studi di Padova, Via G. Gradenigo, 6–35131 Padova, Italy
  • 2Earth and Environmental Sciences Area, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 1 Cyclotron Rd, Berkeley, CA, 94720, USA
  • 3EA G&E 4592, Bordeaux INP, University Bordeaux Montaigne, 1 allée Daguin, 33607 Pessac, France

Abstract. This paper presents a time-lapse application of electrical methods (Electrical Resistivity Tomography – ERT – and Mise-à-la-Masse – MALM) for monitoring plant roots and their activity (root water uptake) during a controlled infiltration experiment. The use of non-invasive geophysical monitoring is of increasing interest as these techniques provide time-lapse imaging of processes that otherwise can only be measured at few specific spatial locations. The experiment here described was conducted in a vineyard in Bordeaux (France) and was focused on the behaviour of two neighbouring grapevines. The joint application of ERT and MALM has several advantages. While ERT in time-lapse mode is sensitive to changes in soil electrical resistivity and thus to the factors controlling it (mainly soil water content, in this context), MALM uses DC current injected in a tree stem to image where the plant-root system is in effective electrical contact with the soil at locations that are likely to be the same where root water uptake (RWU) takes place. Thus ERT and MALM provide complementary information about the root structure and activity. The experiment shows that the region of likely electrical current sources produced by MALM does not change significantly during the infiltration study time in spite of the strong changes of electrical resistivity caused by changes in soil water content. This fact, together with the evidence that current injection in the soil produces totally different patterns, corroborates the idea that this application of MALM highlights the active root density in the soil. When considering the electrical resistivity changes (as measured by ERT) inside the stationary volume of active roots delineated by MALM, the overall tendency is towards a resistivity increase, which can be linked to a decrease in soil water content caused by root water uptake. On the contrary, when considering the soil volume outside the MALM-derived root water uptake region, the electrical resistivity tends to decrease as an effect of soil water content increase caused by the infiltration. The results are particularly promising, and the method can be applied to a variety of scales including the laboratory scale where direct evidence of roots structure and root water uptake can help corroborate the approach. Once fully validated, the joint use of MALM and ERT can be used as a valuable tool to study the activity of roots under a wide variety of field conditions.

Benjamin Mary et al.
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Benjamin Mary et al.
Benjamin Mary et al.
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Short summary
The use of non-invasive geophysical imaging of root system processes is of increasing interest to study soil-plant interactions. The experiment focused on the behaviour of grapevine plants during a controlled infiltration experiment. The combination of the Mise-à-la-masse (MALM) method, a variation of the classical electrical tomography map (ERT), for which the current is transmitted directly into the stem, holds the promise of being able to image root distribution.
The use of non-invasive geophysical imaging of root system processes is of increasing interest...