Field-Scale Soil Moisture Observations in Irrigated Agriculture Fields Using the Cosmic-ray Neutron Rover

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Trenton E Franz1, William Alexander Avery1, Catherine Emily Finkenbiner1, Tiejun Wang1 and Luca Brocca2, (1)University of Nebraska Lincoln, Lincoln, NE, United States, (2)IRPI, Perugia, Italy
Approximately 40% of global food production comes from irrigated agriculture. With the increasing demand for food even greater pressures will be placed on water resources within these systems. In this work we aimed to characterize the spatial and temporal patterns of soil moisture at the field-scale (~500 m) using the newly developed cosmic-ray neutron rover near Waco, NE. Here we mapped soil moisture of 144 quarter section fields (a mix of maize, soybean, and natural areas) each week during the 2014 growing season (May to September). The 11 x11 km study domain also contained 3 stationary cosmic-ray neutron probes for independent validation of the rover surveys. Basic statistical analysis of the domain indicated a strong inverted parabolic relationship between the mean and variance of soil moisture. The relationship between the mean and higher order moments were not as strong. Geostatistical analysis indicated the range of the soil moisture semi-variogram was significantly shorter during periods of heavy irrigation as compared to non-irrigated periods. Scaling analysis indicated strong power law behavior between the variance of soil moisture and averaging area with minimal dependence of mean soil moisture on the slope of the power law function. Statistical relationships derived from the rover dataset offer a novel set of observations that will be useful in: 1) calibrating and validating land surface models, 2) calibrating and validating crop models, 3) soil moisture covariance estimates for statistical downscaling of remote sensing products such as SMOS and SMAP, and 4) provide center-pivot scale mean soil moisture data for optimal irrigation timing and volume amounts.