Plant and Soil

, Volume 239, Issue 1, pp 9–17 | Cite as

A highly conductive drainage extension to control the lower boundary condition of lysimeters

  • Alon Ben-Gal
  • Uri Shani


Lysimeters are used to study and monitor water, fertilizers, salts and other contaminants and are particularly valuable in transpiration and evapotranspiration research. Saturation at the soil bottom boundary in a lysimeter is inherent to its design. A drainage extension made of porous media with high hydraulic conductivity and substantial water holding capacity was devised to extend the lysimeter in order to produce soil moisture conditions mimicking those in the field. Design criteria that assure equal discharge in the soil and in the highly conductive drain (HCD) were established and formulated. Desired matric head at the lysimeter base is determined by HCD extension length. Its value can be manipulated and can range between saturation and the soil's field capacity. Conditions where the HCD is not limiting to flow are obtained through selection of the appropriate cross sectional area ratio between the soil in the lysimeter and the HCD. The validity of these criteria was confirmed with 200 l working lysimeters in the field, with and without plants, and with detailed flow tests utilizing smaller (15 l) lysimeters. Comparison of computed and measured matric head and leachate volume indicates that the proposed method can serve to maintain conditions similar to those in the field.

drain evapotranspiration lysimeter rockwool water balance 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bergström L 1990 Use of lysimeters to estimate leaching. Environ. Pollut. 67, 325–347.Google Scholar
  2. Boll J, Steenhuis T S and Selker J S 1992 Fiberglass wicks for sampling of water and solutes in the vadose zone. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 56, 701–707.Google Scholar
  3. Brye K R, Norman J M, Bundy L G and Gower S T 1999 An equilibrium tension lysimeter for measuring drainage through soil. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 63, 536–543.Google Scholar
  4. Fonteno W C 1990 Physical properties and plant responses to rockwool-amended media. J. Am. Soc. Hortic. Sci. 115, 375–381.Google Scholar
  5. Gardner W R 1958 Some steady-state solutions of unsaturated moisture flow equations with applications to evaporation from a water table. Soil Sci. 85, 228–232.Google Scholar
  6. Hillel D, Gairon S, Falkenflug V and Rawitz E 1969 New Design of a low-cost hydraulic lysimeter system for field measurement of evapotranspiration. Isr J. Agric. Res. 19, 57–63.Google Scholar
  7. Hillel D 1971 Soil and Water Physical Principles and Processes. Academic Press, New York. pp 82–83, 106-107, 228-230.Google Scholar
  8. Klocke N L, Todd R W, Hergert G W, Watts W G and Parkhurst A M 1993 Design, installation, and performance of percolation lysimeters for water quality sampling. Trans. ASAE 36, 429–435.Google Scholar
  9. Klute A 1986 Water retention: Laboratory methods. In Methods of Soil Analysis, Part 1 2nd edition. Ed. A Klute. pp 635–662. ASA Inc., Madison, WI.Google Scholar
  10. Knutson J H, Lee S B, Zhang W Q and Selker J S 1993 Fiberglass wick preparation for use in capillary wick soil pore-water samplers. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 57, 1474–1476.Google Scholar
  11. Knutson J H and Selker J S 1994 Unsaturated hydraulic conductivities of fiberglass wicks and designing capillary wick pore-water samplers. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 58, 721–729.Google Scholar
  12. Kutilek M and Nielsen D R 1994 Soil Hydrology. Catena Verlag, Germany. pp 176–182, 214-215.Google Scholar
  13. Rimmer A, Steenhuis T and Selker J 1995 One dimensional model to evaluate the performance of wick samplers in soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 59, 88–92.Google Scholar
  14. Rogers R D and McConnell J W Jr 1993 Lysimeter Literature Review U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NUREG/CR-67073, EG&G Idaho, Inc. Idaho Falls. pp ix, 58.Google Scholar
  15. Shani U, Hanks R J, Bresler E and Oliveira A S 1987 Field method for estimating hydraulic conductivity and matric potential-water content relations. Soil Sci. Soc Am. J. 51, 298–302.Google Scholar
  16. Tanner C B 1967 Measurement of Evaporation In Irrigation of Agricultural Lands. R M Hagan, H R Haise and T W Edminster Eds. pp 534–574. Amer. Soc. Agronomy, Madison, WI.Google Scholar
  17. Van Bavel C H M 1961 Lysimetric measurements of evapotranspiration rates in the eastern United States. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 138-141.Google Scholar
  18. Van Genucheten M Th 1980 A closed-form equation for predicting the hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated soils. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 44, 892–898.Google Scholar
  19. Yon D A 1991 The use of lysimeters to study the behavior of pesticides in the environment: Some practical considerations. In BCPC Mono No. 47 Pesticides in Soils and Water: Current Perspectives, British Crop Protection Council, Farnham, Surrey. pp 151–154.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alon Ben-Gal
    • 1
  • Uri Shani
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Soil and Water Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences; and Arava Research and Development, `Arava' Experimental Station, Mobile Post EliotThe Hebrew University of JerusalemIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Soil and Water Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental SciencesThe Hebrew University of JerusalemRehovotIsrael

Personalised recommendations