A protocol for collecting and constructing soil core lysimeters

Louis S. Saporito, Ray B. Bryant, Peter J.A. Kleinman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Leaching of nutrients from land applied fertilizers and manure used in agriculture can lead to accelerated eutrophication of surface water. Because the landscape has complex and varied soil morphology, an accompanying disparity in flow paths for leachate through the soil macropore and matrix structure is present. The rate of flow through these paths is further affected by antecedent soil moisture. Lysimeters are used to quantify flow rate, volume of water and concentration of nutrients leaching downward through soils. While many lysimeter designs exist, accurately determining the volume of water and mass balance of nutrients is best accomplished with bounded lysimeters that leave the natural soil structure intact. Here we present a detailed method for the extraction and construction of soil core lysimeters equipped with soil moisture sensors at 5 cm and 25 cm depths. Lysimeters from four different Coastal Plain soils (Bojac, Evesboro, Quindocqua and Sassafras) were collected on the Delmarva Peninsula and moved to an indoor climate controlled facility. Soils were irrigated once weekly with the equivalent of 2 cm of rainfall to draw down soil nitrate-N concentrations. At the end of the draw down period, poultry litter was applied (162 kg TN ha-1) and leaching was resumed for an additional five weeks. Total recovery of applied irrigation water varied from 71% to 85%. Nitrate-N concentration varied over the course of the study from an average of 27.1 mg L-1 before litter application to 40.3 mg L-1 following litter application. While greatest flux of nutrients was measured in soils dominated by coarse sand (Sassafras) the greatest immediate flux occurred from the finest textured soil with pronounced macropore development (Quindocqua).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere53952
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number112
StatePublished - Jun 6 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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