Synthesis of remote and novel ground truth sensors to develop high resolution soil mopisture in China and the UK

  • Petropoulos, George (Prif Ymchwilydd)
  • Cielniak, Grzegorz (Cyd-ymchwilydd)
  • Duckett, Tom (Cyd-ymchwilydd)
  • Evans, Jonathan (Cyd-ymchwilydd)
  • Pearson, Simon (Cyd-ymchwilydd)
  • Morrison, Ross (Ymchwilydd)

Prosiect: Ymchwil a ariannwyd yn allanol

Manylion y Prosiect


The availability of water is a key driver of agricultural productivity. It directly impacts plant growth, and in many countries and locations it is in short or over supply. The impact of water availability on global food production is seen as a key global risk and challenge. Water availability is a hugely contentious international issue, and global climate change, potentially driving increased droughts and flooding, is considered a compounding factor. This projects seeks to develop agri-tech solutions to help alleviate the issue of water in agriculture, and for producers to ultimately drive water use efficiency. Soil moisture directly impacts crop growth, it drives irrigation systems and once a soil has reached its holding capacity excess water rapidly runs into the drainage system, potentially impacting flood risk and system drainage capacity. One of the most significant challenges within the water debate is that there are few simple and reliable systems to measure soil moisture. It is difficult to accurately measure. Techniques developed include spot THD capacitance sensors, the use of neutron probes and more recently the use of remote sensing techniques. Currently, there is no system to measure soil moisture distribution accurately across a field, and the resolution of remote sensing has not been sufficient for agricultural application, or local water management to reduce flood risk. In this project we will bring together a suite of new technologies which increase the resolution of soil moisture measurement to render it applicable for agricultural application on a field, as well as, landscape scale. The project will deploy two new sensors (one static, one mobile) within China that measures soil moisture content as a function of the albedo of cosmically generated fast neutrons (Cosmos sensor, designed by Hydroinova, US). The static sensor measures soil moisture within a field up to a 200m radius from the measurement point. A mesh of static sensors will be deployed within Henan and Hebei province (which produces 40% wheat of China), China. The mobile sensor will be deployed on a bespoke autonomous vehicle or rover to measure soil moisture variation within a field. The vehicle will be developed within the project and will be the first autonomous deployment of this sensor technology. Data from the soil moisture sensors will be used to calibrate the InSARS sensor on the Sentinel-1 satellite to monitor soil moisture within China to within a 500m x 500m resolution. This is a 5-fold improvement on current resolution from SARS. Ultimately, the technology will enable near real time forecasts of soil moisture at a field scale. This information will be invaluable to agricultural producers and for flood risk forecasting, including key insights to improve water use efficiency, irrigation practices, land drainage and the implementation of precision agricultural techniques. This is an ambitious multi disciplinary project. The project coordinates the expertise of four key groups, the University of Lincoln (robotics, mapping and deployment of autonomous vehicles), the Institute of Ecology and Agrometeorology (IEAM) of Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, University of Information Science &Technology, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (Wallingford) and the School of Geography and Earth Sciences, The University of Aberystwth. Considerable focus is placed on knowledge exchange, not just with the agricultural and hydrological communities, but also between international partners within the project. We anticipate that the UK will benefit from understanding the challenges of developing sensor networks in China, with significant differences in scale and environment. The Chinese team will spend considerable periods embedded with the UK academics to learn new skills in remote sensing, sensor deployment and autonomous vehicles.
StatwsWedi gorffen
Dyddiad cychwyn/gorffen dod i rym01 Mai 201630 Ebr 2019


  • Science & Technology Facilities Council (NEWTON FUND): £190,232.00

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