Electrical impedance imaging of water distribution in the root zone

Paul Newill, Dejan Karadaglic, Frank Podd, Bruce Grieve, Trevor York

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)


    The paper describes a technique that is proposed for imaging water transport in and around the root zone of plants using distributed measurements of electrical impedance. The technique has the potential to analyse sub-surface phenotypes, for instance drought tolerance traits in crop breeding programmes. The technical aim is to implement an automated, low cost, instrument for high-throughput screening. Ultimately the technique is targeted at in-field, on-line, measurements. For demonstration purposes the present work considers measurements on laboratory scale rhizotrons housing growing maize plants. Each rhizotron is fitted with 60 electrodes in a rectangular array. To reduce electrochemical effects the capacitively coupled contactless conductivity (C4D) electrodes have an insulating layer on the surface and the resistance of the bulk material is deduced from spectroscopic considerations. Electrical impedance is measured between pairs of electrodes to build up a two-dimensional map. A modified electrical model of such electrodes is proposed which includes the resistive and reactive components of both the insulating layer and the bulk material. Measurements taken on a parallel-plate test cell containing water confirm that the C4D technique is able to measure electrical impedance. The test cell has been used to explore the effects of water content, compaction and temperature on measurements in soil. Results confirm that electrical impedance measurements are very sensitive to moisture content. Impedance fraction changes up to 20% are observed due to compaction up to a pressure of 0.21 kg cm -2 and a temperature fraction sensitivity of about 2%/°C. The effects of compaction and temperature are most significant under dry conditions. Measurements on growing maize reveal the changes in impedance across the rhizotron over a period of several weeks. Results are compared to a control vessel housing only soil.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number055110
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    Number of pages12
    JournalMeasurement Science and Technology
    Issue number5
    Early online date8 Apr 2014
    Publication statusPublished - May 2014


    • capacitively-coupled contactless conductivity
    • electrical impedance imaging
    • root zone monitoring
    • soil moisture

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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