Ensemble HYDRUS-2D modeling to improve apparent electrical conductivity sensing of soil salinity under drip irrigation

Theodor Bughici, Todd H. Skaggs, Dennis L. Corwin, Elia Scudiero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Monitoring and mapping soil salinity are valuable for irrigation management and reclamation of salt-affected agricultural soils in arid and semi-arid regions. Proximal measurements of apparent soil electrical conductivity (ECa) can help characterize soil salinity spatial distributions. However, ECa is not solely a function of salinity. ECa is strongly influenced by soil salinity, water content, and edaphic properties such as texture and bulk density. Consequently, monitoring and mapping salinity based on geospatial ECa measurements is challenging in fields with dynamic and spatially complex patterns of salinity and water content, such as occurs under drip irrigation. We conducted a numerical modeling study to evaluate protocols for using proximal ECa sensing in drip irrigated systems, focusing specifically on the measurement distance from the drip-line that consistently identifies areas of high salinity in the rootzone. The measurement distance was evaluated as a function of six irrigation management parameters: soil hydraulic conductivity, irrigation discharge, irrigation interval, solute concentration, root-zone volume, and leaching fraction. HYDRUS-2D was used to run a 729 member ensemble of drip irrigation simulations of water and solute dynamics under different irrigation management scenarios. Two case studies were simulated for clay loam soil: (1) low salinity soil irrigated with high salinity irrigation water and (2) high salinity soil irrigated with low salinity water. Depth-averaged ECa measurements down to the 75 and 150 cm depths, such as can be obtained using an electromagnetic induction (EMI) sensor, were evaluated in the simulations. According to the ensemble results, a reliable EMI measurement distance from the drip-line was about 100 cm for the case of low salinity irrigation in saline soil and adjacent to the drip-line for the high salinity irrigation. The ensemble ECa and EC of saturated paste extract (ECe) distributions were twice as sensitive to the irrigation water salinity level as compared to the other irrigation management parameters. The probabilistic ensemble approach can be extended to a variety of case studies to aid soil scientists and agricultural consultants monitoring and mapping soil salinity with ECa-directed soil sampling for micro-irrigation systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107813
JournalAgricultural Water Management
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Apparent soil electrical conductivity
  • Electromagnetic induction
  • Micro-irrigation
  • Proximal sensor
  • Soil salinity mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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