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Application of active heat pulse method with fiber optic temperature sensing for estimation of wetting bulbs and water distribution in drip emitters

Agricultural Water Management
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.agwat.2012.10.012
  • Distributed Temperature Sensing (Dts)
  • Active Heat Pulse Method With Fiber Optic Temperature Sensing (Ahfo)
  • Wetting Bulbs
  • Agricultural Science
  • Earth Science


Abstract Through the use of the Distributed Fiber Optic Temperature Measurement (DFOT) method, it is possible to measure the temperature in small intervals (on the order of centimeters) for long distances (on the order of kilometers) with a high temporal frequency and great accuracy. The heat pulse method consists of applying a known amount of heat to the soil and monitoring the temperature evolution, which is primarily dependent on the soil moisture content. The use of both methods, which is called the active heat pulse method with fiber optic temperature sensing (AHFO), allows accurate soil moisture content measurements. In order to experimentally study the wetting patterns, i.e. shape, size, and the water distribution, from a drip irrigation emitter, a soil column of 0.5m of diameter and 0.6m high was built. Inside the column, a fiber optic cable with a stainless steel sheath was placed forming three concentric helixes of diameters 0.2m, 0.4m and 0.6m, leading to a 148 measurement point network. Before, during, and after the irrigation event, heat pulses were performed supplying electrical power of 20W/m to the steel. The soil moisture content was measured with a capacitive sensor in one location at depths of 0.1m, 0.2m, 0.3m and 0.4m during the irrigation. It was also determined by the gravimetric method in several locations and depths before and right after the irrigation. The emitter bulb dimensions and shape evolution was satisfactorily measured during infiltration. Furthermore, some bulb's characteristics difficult to predict (e.g. preferential flow) were detected. The results point out that the AHFO is a useful tool to estimate the wetting pattern of drip irrigation emitters in soil columns and show a high potential for its use in the field.

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