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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Auburn, Alabama » Soil Dynamics Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #303112

Title: Field testing a mobile inelastic neutron scattering system to measure soil carbon

item Yakubova, Galina
item WIELOPOLSKI, LUCIAN - Retired Non ARS Employee
item Torbert, Henry - Allen
item Prior, Stephen - Steve

Submitted to: Soil Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/29/2014
Publication Date: 12/31/2014
Publication URL:
Citation: Yakubova, G.N., Wielopolski, L., Torbert III, H.A., Prior, S.A. 2014. Field testing a mobile inelastic neutron scattering system to measure soil carbon. Soil Science. 79(12):529-535.

Interpretive Summary: Carbon is an essential component of life, and plays a critical role in soil fertility and farm productivity. It is an integral part of the atmospheric-terrestrial carbon exchange cycle mediated by plants. More soil carbon is important for soil stewardship, water/nutrient retention, good soil structure, and maintenance of clean water through erosion prevention. Carbon capture from the atmosphere by plant growth may help mitigate global change through soil carbon storage. All of these require accurate monitoring and assessment of soil carbon to identify best soil management practices. The present paper describes a mobile device for routine measurement of soil carbon that is fast and nondestructive (inelastic neutron scattering, INS). We compared INS field measurements of soil carbon to the standard dry combustion method.

Technical Abstract: Cropping history in conjunction with soil management practices can have a major impact on the amount of organic carbon (C) stored in soil. Current methods of assessing soil C based on soil coring and subsequent processing procedures prior to laboratory analysis are labor intensive and time consuming. Development of alternative methods that can make in situ field measurements of soil C are needed to successfully evaluate management practices in a timely manner. The design, field testing procedure, and results of measuring soil carbon in situ using a mobile inelastic neutron scattering system (MINS) are described. For comparison, soil cores were also collected for laboratory C analysis using the dry combustion technique (DCT). MINS’s reliable autonomous operation for 29 hours per charge cycle was demonstrated in the field. Soil carbon assessments by DCT and MINS demonstrated a linear correlation between the two methods in the 0-30 cm soil layer.