The facility features environment simulation tools, which provide a world-class resource for the detailed study of soil-implement, soil-human and soil-plant-water interactions and the optimisation of machinery efficiency, performance testing and method development. Read more Read less

Key apparatus include:

The Soil Lane:
Designed for whole vehicle testing, this is 45m long, 5m wide and 0.75 to 2m deep, with a subsurface irrigation/drainage system for soil moisture control. Substrate (sand or soil) is prepared in-situ against a reference plane in a controlled and repeatable manner.

The Soil Bin:
This 20m long, 1.7m wide and 0.7m deep soil dynamics facility can be prepared in layers to create a number of highly controlled and repeatable test profile conditions. The Soil Bin Processor has instrumented mounting points for the testing of cultivation implements, tyres and sensors, and an infinitely variable drive system to allow for both low and high speed testing. The facility can also be used to determine draught and vertical force requirements and tillage efficiency.

The Wet Bin:
A 6m long, 1m wide and 1m deep controlled soil moisture facility with sub-surface drainage/irrigation and an instrumented overhead implement carriage. Using any soil material it can provide capability for small scale, repeatable testing of soil engaging equipment at moisture contents up to saturation.

The Erosion Laboratory:
This facility includes a selection of pressurised and gravity-fed rainfall simulators that enable accurate simulation of temperate and tropical rainfall, drop size, intensities and kinetic energy conditions over a range of return period storm events. As well as undertaking fundamental research into erosion processes and leaching studies at a sub-process level, the erosion laboratory is ideal for evaluating the comparative erodibility of slope forming materials (including soil, waste-rock and ores). In addition a comprehensive range of erosion control technologies can be tested.

Slope adjustable (0 – 45o) runoff rigs with 1.0m x 2.0m test surfaces and a comprehensive range of experimental trays, all with the capacity for collection of surface runoff, leachate and particulates.

In addition, a variety of modular (up to 6.0 x 2.0m) and single post, pressure fed rainfall simulators for field-based testing in a range of different terrains and situations. Equipment is also available to establish and remotely monitor large scale field plots on a range of cropping systems and engineered slopes.

Supporting Facilities:

  • Instrumentation laboratory and fabrication workshop
  • A comprehensive range of equipment for measuring soil mechanical and physical properties
  • Field monitoring and surveying equipment
  • Photogrammetry and remote sensing equipment
  • Single wheel tester.

Key benefits:

  • Highly controllable and repeatable experimental conditions
  • Soil Lane and Soil Bin: Versatile substrate (e.g. sand and soil) capability
  • Testing of cultivation implements, tyres and sensors
  • Determination of draught and vertical force requirements and tillage efficiency
  • Single wheel to whole vehicle testing
  • Accurate simulation of temperate and tropical rainfall, drop size, intensities and kinetic energy conditions over a range of return period storm events
  • Integration of field and laboratory data acquisition
  • The erosion laboratory has been approved for the controlled testing of soils, waste-rock and ores imported under the university’s soil import licence.

Summary of applications

  • The facility helps inform policy decisions

  • It enables the development of more efficient and sustainable methods of food and fibre production

  • It can be used to develop more fuel efficient technology

  • It facilitates developments in civil engineering, land reclamation, land restoration and sports surface technology

  • It provides a controllable environment in which to solve challenges faced by the MoD, the utility sector and the aviation industry

  • Simulation of rainfall combined with accurate measurement of rainfall size and velocity, using a Laser Optical Disdrometer, enables development of more effective erosion control methods

  • Controllable and repeatable conditions enables model development and testing.


Using the facility

  • Design of precision weeding mechanisms for inter and intra-row weed control

  • Development of ‘on-the-go’ sensor and system control technology, with predictive modelling of the soil-plant-water system, for improved precision, speed and affordability of soil characterisation and the targeted application of inputs in agricultural systems

  • Measurement of soil reaction to heavily loaded rubber tracks and tyres, and an assessment of the impact of modern agriculture processes on buried archaeology

  • Design, optimisation and performance benchmarking of soil engaging implements through measurements of draught force and soil disturbance in controlled conditions

  • Investigation of jet-assisted sub-marine cable burial ploughs for the burial of fibre-optic telecommunications cables

  • Development of a wide range of agronomic, soil management and bio-engineering based soil and water conservation methods suitable for use in high value horticultural cropping systems, arable cropping systems, perennial cropping systems on steeply sloping land, and in mine restoration

  • Testing of geotextile material for the stabilisation of slopes and prevention of soil erosion

  • Fundamental research into erosion processes and leaching studies at a process and sub-process level

  • Comparative erodibility of slope forming materials (including soil, waste-rock and ores) to inform design and storm water runoff control measures during ‘Life of Mine’

  • Pesticide rainfall efficacy trials

  • Road testing.