The facility provides a world-class resource for the detailed study of interactions between soil, crops/plants, water, agricultural machinery and off-road vehicles. The facilities allow controlled simulation of agricultural and environmental systems at the soil aggregate to sub-field scale. The facilities can also be used for product performance testing (e.g. agrochemical fate and efficacy; effectiveness of erosion control technologies). Read more Read less

Key apparatus include:

The Soil Lane

The 45 m long, 5 m wide and 0.75 to 2 m deep soil lane is designed to accommodate field scale operations, such as cultivations and sowing, in a controlled and repeatable manner using the CHAP Soil Processor or commercial machinery.

Substrate (sand or soil) can be prepared in layers either in the Lane or in the 1 mCHAP soil containers to create a number of highly controlled and repeatable test profile conditions. The Soil Processor has instrumented mounting points for the testing of cultivation implements, tyres, tracks and sensors, and a variable drive system to allow for both low and high speed testing. The facility can also be used to determine the draught and vertical force requirements of soil-engaging implements that influence energy consumption and fuel costs.

The Soil Erosion Laboratory

This facility includes pressurised and gravity-fed rainfall simulators that simulate temperate and tropical rainfall, with realistic drop sizes, intensities and kinetic energies for a range of return period storm events. As well as undertaking fundamental research into soil erosion and hydrological processes at a sub-process level, the soil erosion laboratory is ideal for evaluating the erodibility of slope forming materials (including soil, waste-rock and ores). Performance testing of erosion control technologies including geotextiles, filter socks and soil conditioners is also possible.

Slope adjustable (0 – 45o) runoff rigs (up to 1.0 m x 2.0 m) and experimental erosion trays allow the collection of surface runoff and infiltration, eroded material and associated pollutants at a range of spatial scales.

Modular (up to 6.0 m x 2.0 m) and single post rainfall simulators are available for field-based runoff and soil erosion studies. Dedicated instrumentation is used to monitor runoff, erosion and meteorological data from large scale runoff / erosion field plots, both on-site and remotely.

Supporting Facilities:

  • A comprehensive range of instruments to measure soil mechanical, physical, biological and chemical properties
  • A Laser Optical Disdrometer to measure raindrop size, velocity and energy Field monitoring and surveying equipment
  • Field monitoring and surveying equipment
  • Photogrammetry and remote sensing equipment, including the AgriEPI phenotyping platform
  • The CHAP glasshouse and environmental growth rooms for the establishment and growth of vegetation
  • CHAP Leaf-area meter, drying ovens and root-washing facility for measurement of vegetation effects on hydrology and erosion
  • Single wheel tester for traffic loading studies.

Key benefits:

  • Highly controllable and repeatable experimental conditions
  • A range of substrates can be used in the Soil Lane and soil erosion laboratory
  • Field-scale testing of cultivation implements, tyres, tracks and sensors
  • Determination of draught and vertical force requirements, and tillage efficiency
  • Single wheel to whole vehicle testing
  • Accurate simulation of current and predicted rainfall events for hydrological and erosion process studies in the laboratory or field
  • Full performance testing of soil erosion control technologies
  • Validation of laboratory generated data with on-farm results
  • Controlled testing of imported soils, waste-rock and ores under Cranfield University’s soil import licence.

Summary of applications

  • The facility’s experimental capability applies to all land-based industries: agricultural, civil and environmental engineering, land reclamation, land restoration and sports surface technology
  • Controllable and repeatable conditions generate sound scientific evidence for environmental model development and product testing
  • The research outcomes enable the development of more efficient and sustainable methods of food, fibre and fodder production, including more fuel efficient land-based technologies
  • Solutions to land-based challenges faced by the MoD, the utility sector and the aviation industry
  • 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
  • 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
  • Fundamental research into erosion processes and hydrological 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’
  • Effect of rainfall intensity and soil surface sealing on seedling germination and emergence
  • Contamination of salad leaves by rainsplash soil detachment
  • Development of a wide range of soil and water conservation methods suitable for use in agriculture, horticulture, the construction industry, mine reclamation and land restoration
  • Testing of geotextile materials for the stabilisation of slopes and prevention of soil erosion
  • Pesticide fate and efficacy trials
  • Rural earth road testing (depth of rut deformation).