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Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Transactions of the ASAE.  VOL. 43(6): 1317-1322 . (doi: 10.13031/2013.3028) @2000
Authors:   Y. Zuo, D. C. Erbach, S. J. Marley
Keywords:   Soil structure, Fiber optics, Sensor, Aggregate size, Tillage, Soil quality.

Soil structure is an important measure of soil quality that significantly affects crop production, water-use efficiency, and soil erosion. More effective techniques to measure soil structure are needed to determine if a tillage operation achieves the desired result and whether soil management practices are improving or degrading soil structure. A fiber-optic displacement sensor was used to scan the surface of bulk samples of soil aggregates. The soil was air dried and sieved to aggregate size fractions of < 0.18, 0.18-0.25, 0.25-0.5, 0.5-1, 1-2, 2-4, and 4-8 mm. The sensor, following a blade to level the surface at a constant distance beneath the sensor tip, was moved at 5.08 mm/s by a universal testing machine. Voltage output of the sensor was recorded with data acquisition software at sampling rates of 10, 100, and 200 Hz. Mean sensor output voltage decreased significantly (P = 0.05) as aggregate size increased. Values measured for the aggregate size fractions, in the order listed above, were 4.6, 3.1, 2.5, 1.5, 0.8, and 0.2 V, respectively. Data sampling rate had negligible effect on mean output voltage. The number of peaks in the sensor output signal was affected by aggregate size, but was comparatively independent of the gap between sensor and soil surface. Data sampling rate should be greater than 20 readings/mm in order to use the number of peaks in the sensor output signal for discriminating among aggregates of the sizes evaluated in this research. The results indicated that the fiber-optic soil structure sensor may have potential for use in evaluating soil structure.

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