The lysimeter infrastructure is a soil health monitoring station that was installed in 2016 with grants from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. On site are 18 lysimeters, the first of their kind in North America, that are being used to study the impacts different types of crop rotations have on soil health. The lysimeters are metal cylinders 1 m2 at the surface and 150 cm in depth. The soil contained in each lysimeter was extracted in such a way that allowed for the preservation of the columns structure. Of these 18 lysimeters, half contain loamy soil columns extracted on site at the Elora Research Station and the other half contain sandy soil columns from the Cambridge area. The two types of crop rotations are a conventional rotation consisting of soy-soy-corn and a diverse rotation consisting of soy-winter wheat-corn with a cover crop planted in the off season.
There are many different sources for the data collected at this monitoring site. The lysimeters themselves allow for precise measurement of water gained by percipitation and water lost by evopotranspiration. Sensors embedded at varying depth in each lysimeter allow for the collection of soil water tension, CO2 concentration, temperature, and electroconductivity data. Water samples collected at 5, 10, 30, 60, and 90 cm are sent to a lab for nitrate and phosphate analysis. Air sampling at the surface of each lysimeter is analyzed onsite by a trace gas analyzer for green house gas fluxes from the soil. All this data will help us better understand the underlying mechanisms at play with regards to soil health and the use of different cropping systems.
This video describes lysimeter installation at Elora Research Station.
Please visit Soil Health Interpretive Center to read more about projects and events associated with the lysimeter infrastructure.