EGU23-13024, updated on 21 Nov 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Electrical resistivity tomography and sap flow measurements on date palm stems to support irrigation management

Tarig Bukhary1, Johan Alexander Huisman1, Haoran Wang1, Egon Zimmermann2, and Naftali Lazarovitch3
Tarig Bukhary et al.
  • 1IBG-3: Agrosphere, Forschungszentrum Juelich, Juelich, Germany (
  • 2ZEA-2: Electronic Systems, Forschungszentrum Juelich, Juelich, Germany
  • 3Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

The cultivation of date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) is widespread in hyper-arid regions and relies on high-frequency irrigation to achieve satisfactory yields. Adequate irrigation management is of great importance, and requires understanding of the dynamics of sap flow and water storage within the date palm stem. Traditionally, sap flow estimates are obtained using heat dissipation probes. This method provides point estimates that may not represent the spatial distribution of sap flow within the date palm stem. The aim of this study is to investigate whether electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) measurements on date palm stems can be used to obtain information on the spatial distribution of sap flow in order to obtain improved estimates of transpiration. In a first step, laboratory experiments were used to improve understanding of the electrical and hydraulic properties of date palm stems. A laboratory set-up was developed that induced flow in a date palm stem segment using vacuum pressure while making time-lapse ERT measurements. It was found that such ERT monitoring allows to visualize changes in radial flow variability due to different flow conditions. In addition, the electrical conductivity of the outflow was considerably higher than that of the introduced solution, which suggest the presence of stored salt in the stem segment. The relationship between bulk electrical conductivity and water content of date palm stem segments was investigated on smaller samples using multi-step-outflow experiments combined with bulk electrical conductivity measurements. The results showed that the water redistribution in the sample was slow after the initial desaturation, which suggests that the water is tightly bound as in a clay soil. The observed relationship between bulk electrical conductivity and saturation could be described with models established for porous media. In a second step, field experiments were performed that combined ERT and sap flow measurements on both juvenile date palm trees growing in lysimeters and mature date palm trees. For this, a custom-made measurement system was used to acquire high-speed ERT measurements with a temporal resolution of several minutes. The high-resolution monitoring of both the juvenile and mature date palms showed a high spatial variability in electrical conductivity within both the juvenile and mature date palm stems. This has obvious implications for the installation of sap flow sensors, where low-conductivity areas likely indicating regions without flow should be avoided. ERT monitoring also revealed diurnal changes in the spatial distribution of the electrical conductivity that are associated with the tree response to irrigation. An induced drought period for the juvenile date palm in the lysimeter also resulted in a noticeable decrease in the mean electrical conductivity on the second day after irrigation was stopped, suggesting that ERT may also provide an early indicator of water stress.

How to cite: Bukhary, T., Huisman, J. A., Wang, H., Zimmermann, E., and Lazarovitch, N.: Electrical resistivity tomography and sap flow measurements on date palm stems to support irrigation management, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-13024,, 2023.