Assessment of soil structure using X-ray computed tomography

Rogasik, H.; Onasch, I.; Brunotte, J.; Jegou, D.; Wendroth, O.

Geological Society Special Publications 215: 151-165


DOI: 10.1144/gsl.sp.2003.215.01.14
Accession: 030199313

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Assessment of soil structure, characterized by complex morphological and functional properties, is difficult because most conventional soil physical investigations are destructive and variable in spatial resolution. The use of X-ray computed tomography, as a non-destructive technique, presents significant progress. It can be used to study soil structure at the millimetre scale, e.g. with a resolution of 0.25 mm in the horizontal direction and 1 mm in the vertical direction for the reported study. The measured Hounsfield Unit (HU) values characterize X-ray attenuation for each volume element of the soil core samples. From HU values, soil physical properties of soil cores or their subunits can be derived. They enable: (i) visual assessment of the soil structural condition through inspection of the X-ray CT images; (ii) 3D visualization of air-filled macropores; and (iii) calculation of the mean dry bulk density and standard deviation of voxel-related HU values for successive slices of soil cores. The degradation of structure of loamy and silty soils by tillage could be assessed by CT through quantification of decreased air-filled porosity, destroyed macropore connectivity, increased dry bulk density and decreased standard deviation of HU values in horizontal slices. Small-scale compactions near earthworm burrows could also be detected.