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Electrical resistivity in precision cranberry farming

Low ER indicates low cranberry yieldOne of the most important issues in precision agriculture is to develop site specific principles of crop management based on variability of soil and hydrological properties. Accessing spatial variability of soil properties often require high-density and repetitious sampling, which is costly, time-consuming, and labor-intensive. One of the challenges facing the adoption of precision agriculture technology is the identification of productivity-related variability of soil properties accurately and cost-effectively.

The application of the geophysical methods of electrical resistivity makes it possible to define areas of electrically contrasting soils, which have distinct properties and, therefore, should be used in agriculture in different ways. Electrical resistivity is a composite characteristic of soils, which generally related to soil texture, stone, salt, and humus contents, and arrangement of the genetic soil horizons. This is the complex of the factors, which directly influence yield of the most of the crops. The advantage of measuring electrical resistivity is that it can be measured directly in the field without actual taking of soil samples and analyzing them in the laboratory. Thus, implication of the electrical resistivity techniques of soil characterization can tremendously decreases time and labor, required to delineate management zones within the fields.


Chatsworth, NJ 39° 49' 3" N, 74° 32' 7.0008" W
Puerto Varas 41° 19' 58.6704" S, 72° 58' 55.8408" W

Vertical Electrical Sounding to Detect Groundwater Levels in Arid Areas

hydrology of delta Volga, RussiaWater and salt content distributions within the soil profile are the main properties causing considerable variations in electrical resistivity. In arid areas, the water content and salt distributions are determined mainly  by the saline groundwater, rather then by precipitation. 


The soil profile is divided into a top unsaturated layer with high resistivity and a bottom layer saturated by saline groundwater with low resistivity. Considering large differences in electrical resistivity between the unsaturated and saturated zones, the VES method was applied to detect the saline groundwater level. 


Gandurino, AST 45° 50' 56.4" N, 48° 0' 23.04" E

Vertical Electrical Sounding to Detect Soil Salinity in Arid Areas

total soil salinity vs resistivity by VESWater and salt content distributions within the soil profile are the main properties causing considerable variations in electrical resistivity or conductivity.  Since the evaporation in the arid areas (Astrakhan, Russia) is about five times higher than the precipitation, the water content and salt distributions are determined mainly by the saline groundwater.

The differentiation of salinity in the unsaturated zone of the soil profiles was revealed by small fluctuations of electrical resistivity in upper part of the VES profiles. We thoroughly interpreted the VES results to estimate the layers with different electrical conductivities (EC) for 12 soil profiles. The total salt content was measured in soil samples collected from the layers of the profiles as shown in Table (columns 1 and 2) for one example profile. 

Evaluation of stone contents in soils with electrical geophysical methods to aid orchard planning

VES of stony soils in Crimea

Establishments of orchards and vineyards are long-term and money-intensive, but highly pay-off projects. This study allowed developing procedure for incorporating geophysical survey data into recommendations of usage skeletal soils under orchards. Geophysical methods of electrical resistivity, such as VES and four-electrode profiling provided the information about spatial distributions of stones in skeletal soils.  The resistivity of rocks or stones is much higher (about 104-1012 ohm m) than the resistivity of soil horizons with any texture. Therefore, high resistivity will indicate the presence of stones in soil profiles.

Study was conducted on skeletal soils (Paleoxerolls and Lithic Xerorthents) formed on carbonate-cemented marine deposit, limestone, or pebbles of alluvial origin in western part of Crimea Peninsula, Ukraine. The stone content varied from 2 to 90% of fragments coarse than 2 mm by volume and stony layers occurred in soil profiles at the depth as shallow as 12 cm.



Applications of LandMapper handheld for near-surface soil surveys and beyond

LandMapper - fast, portable, versatile, affordableOn-the-go sensors, designed to measure soil electrical resistivity (ER) or electrical conductivity (EC) are vital for faster non-destructive soil mapping in precision agriculture, civil and environmental engineering, archaeology and other near-surface applications. Compared with electromagnetic methods and ground penetrating radar, methods of EC/ER measured with direct current and four-electrode probe have fewer limitations and were successfully applied on clayish and saline soils as well as on highly resistive stony and sandy soils. However, commercially available contact devices, which utilize a four-electrode principle, are bulky, very expensive, and can be used only on fallow fields. Multi-electrode ER-imaging systems applied in deep geophysical explorations are heavy, cumbersome and their use is usually cost-prohibited in many near-surface applications, such as forestry, archaeology, environmental site assessment and cleanup, and in agricultural surveys on farms growing perennial horticultural crops, vegetables, or turf-grass. In such applications there is a need for accurate, portable, low-cost device to quickly check resistivity of the ground on-a-spot, especially on the sites non-accessible with heavy machinery.

Four-electrode principle of EC/ER measurements

Our equipment utilizes well-known four-electrode principle to measure electrical resistivity or conductivity (Fig).


Jonesboro, AR 35° 50' 32.2692" N, 90° 42' 15.4044" W
Krasnoyarsk 56° 0' 38.8404" N, 92° 51' 9.99" E

Soil Electrical Geophysics - public library @Zotero

Landviser maintains public library of publications related to "Soil Electrical Geophysics" on Zotero servers. You can view and browse that library below. PDFs of publications in public domain are attached to the respective listings in the library and are stored on this website. For most publications registration on Zotero or our website is not required, although we are strongly encourage you to register to gain access to all materials, receive timely updates and easily manage your own research library.

Using LandMapper to Monitor Soil Salinity and Mitigate Its Effects on Rice Production at US Gulf Coast

Landmapper - Portable and Scalable EC meterMost of the soils along US Gulf Coast are naturally slightly saline and some are waterlogged during much of the growing season. Naturally, those areas are used for rice production rotated with cattle grazing or hay growing. Soil salinity of those areas varies spatially and temporarily due to drought, hurricane-pushed sea water surges, micro-elevation within fields, variability of salinity levels in irrigation water. Monitoring soil and water salinity with conventional techniques of collecting soil samples by farmer and sending them to outside lab is costly and time-consuming. Such approach fails to provide timely advice to the farmer regarding crop selection pre-planting and mitigation inputs during the growing season. Several rice farms affected by Katrina and Ike hurricanes were monitored in 2006-2011 utilizing field soil EC meter, LandMapper ERM-02, consumer-grade GPS, and other common equipment available to a farmer. On six test fields EC values were recorded with LandMapper directly in the field at 30 locations in less than 45 min.

Cite this presentation:

Golovko, Larisa, and Anatoly Pozdnyakov. “Using LandMapper to Monitor Soil Salinity and Mitigate Its Effects on Rice Production at US Gulf Coast.” In Making Waves: Geophysical Innovations for a Thirsty World. Tucson  AZ: Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society, 2012. 25 - 2012 - Tucson, AZ

Registered users can download full proceeding paper: 

Using LandMapper to Monitor Soil Salinity and Mitigate Its Effects on Rice Production at US Gulf Coast


Winnie, TX 29° 49' 12.7956" N, 94° 23' 2.6808" W
SAGEEP 2012 Tucson, AZ 32° 13' 18.2748" N, 110° 55' 35.3244" W

Vertical Electrical Sounding and Self-Potential Methods to Survey for Placement of Potable Water Wells

Science of Geophysics vs Art of DowsingWater is a precious commodity  in most urban and rural areas. Luck of local  potable  water sources threatens not only thriving but a mere survival of rural communities all over the world.  Establishing potable water wells requires a lot of fundings and resources and often cost prohibitive for local governments in South America and Africa.

Searching for shallow groundwater require knowledge of subsurface layers and locating intensity and directions of water fluxes, which can be accomplished with geophysical methods of vertical electrical sounding (VES) and self-potential (SP).  A method of VES can distinguish differences in electrical resistivity or conductivity at the multiple (10+) layers in soil profiles. These differences reveal the changes in soil texture and structure  between water-bearing and waterproof  layers,  which form a framework for  the subsurface water fluxes. 

The directions and intensities of the fluxes  can then be evaluated with the self-potential method. However, conventional equipment for VES and SP is very expensive, bulky and complicated to operate. We tested a simple low-cost handheld device, LandMapper ERM-02, to evaluate layers in the ground with VES method and results were well  correlated with drilled profiles in Central TX.  Information is provided for the VES array assembly, field measuring procedure and interpretation of sounding results. Previously, device was used in Astrakhan area, Russia for estimation of the groundwater table and salinity layers in the soil profiles. The method of self-potential was used to estimate subsurface water flux directions and intensities through the measured variation in electrical potential on the soil surface and direct potable wells placement in Kiev, Urkaine and Dmitrov, Russia.

Cite this presentation:SAGEEP 25 - 2012 - Tucson, AZ
Golovko, Larisa, Anatoly Pozdnyakov, and Terry Waller. “A Vertical Electrical Sounding and Self-Potential Methods to Survey for Placement of Potable Water Wells.” In Making Waves: Geophysical Innovations for a Thirsty World. Tucson  AZ: Environmental and Engineering Geophysical Society, 2012.


Water For All International San Angelo, TX 31° 27' 49.5792" N, 100° 26' 13.3368" W
SAGEEP 2012 Tucson, AZ 32° 13' 18.2748" N, 110° 55' 35.3244" W


Self-potential map to detect directions of water fluxes, KievThe self-potential (SP) method was used by Fox as early as 1830 on sulphide veins in a Cornish mine, but the systematic use of the SP and electrical resistivity methods in conventional geophysics dates from about 1920 (Parasnis, 1997). The SP method is based on measuring the natural potential differences, which generally exist between any two points on the ground. These potentials are associated with electrical currents in the soil. Large potentials are generally observed over sulphide and graphite ore bodies, graphitic shale, magnetite, galena, and other electronically highly conducting minerals (usually negative). However, SP anomalies are greatly affected by local geological and topographical conditions. These effects are considered in exploration geophysics as “noise”. The electrical potential anomalies over the highly conducting rock are usually overcome these environmental “noise”, thus, the natural electrical potentials existing in soils are usually not considered in conventional geophysics.

LandMapper ERM-02, equipped with proper non-polarizing electrodes, can be used to measure such “noise” electrical potentials created in soils due to soil-forming process and water/ion movements. The electrical potentials in soils, clays, marls, and other water-saturated and unsaturated sediments can be explained by such phenomena as ionic layers, electro-filtration, pH differences, and electro-osmosis.

Another possible environmental and engineering application of self-potential method is to study subsurface water movement. Measurements of electro-filtration potentials or streaming potentials have been used in USSR to detect water leakage spots on the submerged slopes of earth dams (Semenov, 1980). The application of self-potential method to outline water fluxes in shallow subsurface of urban soils is described in (Pozdnyakova et al., 2001). The detail description of self-potential method procedure is provided in LandMapper manual.

Another important application of LandMapper ERM-02 is measuring electrical potentials between soils and plants. Electrical balance between soil and plants is important for plant health and electrical potential gradient governs water and nutrient uptake by plants. Monitoring of electrical potentials in plants and soils is a cutting-edge research topic in the leading scientific centers around the world.


Zamboanga 7° 1' 27.3612" N, 122° 11' 20.0544" E
Kiev-Pechersk Lavra Kiev 50° 24' 59.1768" N, 30° 33' 55.836" E
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