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Geophysical Roots Observation for Water savING in arboriculture, viticulture and agronomy

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GROWING (Geophysical Roots Observation for Water savING in arboriculture, viticulture and agronomy)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-12-31

GROWING is a project dealing with the use of minimally invasive methods for roots monitoring, with the specific aim of improving water use in arboriculture, viticulture and agronomy. The aim of GROWING is to develop our capability of understanding, through measuring and modeling, the actions of the root system on water state and fluxes in the soil-plant-atmosphere system. This is particularly critical in areas of water scarcity, such as the Mediterranean region.

GROWING is based upon three scientific pillars: (a) an advanced plant root phenotyping technology using geophysical methods, overcoming current limitation in imaging roots under field working conditions; (b) a coupled above and below-ground monitoring using geophysical, plant physiology and atmospheric measurements and (c) a data assimilation scheme that uses the data above to construct a hydrogeophysical model of water distribution in soil and exchanges with the atmosphere.

The ground breaking nature of GROWING lies in the pooling of human, technical, and data resources, in order to better understand the hydric stress and roots response under a range of soil and agricultural practices. The scientific developments above foster the design of new tools with the ambition to transfer innovative knowledge to stakeholders, farmers, and winemakers in particular.
The project started on January 1st, 2020. I worked in Italy in the department of Geosciences (UNIPD) until March 19th. During that time, I followed the proposal and developed WP0 and WP1 to deliver D4.1 and D1.1 to D1.3. Very few data were collected for D1.1 due to the difficulty to grow the plants in the rhizotron, and no progress was achieved for D2.1. I participated in one widely attended conference in January 2020.

From month 3 to 6, COVID-19 caused limited access to laboratory facilities. For WP1, we rather focused on D1.3 in which I made more progress than initially expected. I dedicated time to write 2 articles intended to make a literature review.

From months 6 to 9, milestone 1 has been discussed and together with my supervisors, we decided to extend the time allocated for D1.1 and D2.1. In particular, as a mitigation solution, I trained a new hired post-doc working at UNIPD, who will contribute to collecting the data needed. I also established the first version of the DMP (based on the work done for D4.1). Finally, I allocated time for article preparation for D4.1 and D1.3 and I contributed as a co-editor to the special issue on agrogeophysics

From month 9 to 12, we agreed on a remote collaboration with LBL, consisting in data processing for the WP2 and I supervised experimental activities from WP1 from new hired post-doc working at the UNIPD lab. I organised of a workshop, convened of a session dedicated to open geophysics. From month 13 to 16, we agreed on a retargeted WP3 initially schedule during the return phase as it is possible to work on it remotely (see figure below). I contacted Professor M. Putti and discussed how to implement it using the current datasets. I participated to EGU (2 posters) and EAGE (convener) and attended MSCA webinars.

From month 16 to 22, I decided to buy a new equipment for the lab experiment extension WP2. It consists in very accurate weight sensors to relate measurement to water balance as a requirement of WP3 (data assimilation (DA) of geophysical information into hydrogeophysical modelling). A visit is scheduled to Padova to measure for WP2/WP3. I got 2 accepted papers as co-author and published in Open-access (10.1002/ppj2.20021 and 10.1002/vzj2.20115). I obtained preliminary result from WP3 modelling. As for the community engagement and submitted a review paper covering WP3 to Frontiers Journal. I contributed as a reviewer for agriculture journal, I maintained the Catalogue of Agrogeophysical (CAGS) and participated as expert to the Biogeophysics for Climate Resilient Viticulture group. I run a laboratory experiment focuses on Partial Root Zone drying experiment with some insights expected on MALM theory for active roots.

From month 22 to 24: arrived at Berkeley Lab for 5 months, starting my employee training (D5.2). I got 1 accepted article as 1st author (10.3389/frwa.2021.767910). I renewed the contact with FruitionSciences (a private company included in the initial project). I overseed the data collection for WP2 supervising the activities at UNIPD, restarting to measure in the lab for D1.1 during a partial root zone drying experiment. I applied the WP3 algorithms to long term geophysical and plant data collected by Berkeley Lab and contributed to WP3. One article is in preparation. As for the community engagement, I contributed as a reviewer for BARD project ( organizer of the 2nd agrogeophysical seminar ( and maintainer of the Catalogue of Agrogeophysical (CAGS) database (dataset collection for pedophysical relationship gathering D2.1).

From months 24 to 28, I had regular meetings with M. Camporese (UNIPD) to monitor the progress of Data Assimilation (WP3). I got one abstract to EGU accepted for oral presentation (D4.2) and 1 peer-reviewed article in preparation (D4.2). I've been involved in the Noble project (USA, PI, Y. Wu) – processing of real long-term electrical tomography, plant, and remote sensing data (D2.3) using Data Assimilation (WP2 and WP3). One peer-reviewed article is in preparation (D4.2). I also started dissemination and transfer of knowledge: by e-meeting with FruitionSciences private company (D4.3).
So far, the scientific developments above fostered two main contributions beyond the state of the art:

(i) A platform putting together a database/catalog of agrogeophysical surveys in order to promote FAIR practicies and boost future research in agrogeophysics ( This platform which has been presented during seminar and conferences is now in the process of being adopted at the research level. During the remaining year, the platform will serve to showcase the rise of Agrogeophysics and how it can conquers new territories especially at the community level.

(ii) New processing tools of plant root phenotyping with the ambition to transfer innovative knowledge to stakeholders, farmers, and winemakers in particular. Two new open-source codes are published and overcome the past limitation on interpreting the data collected from traditional methods. Additionally, the developed geophysical algorithms are coupled with hydrological modelling which is intended to provide better proxies such as soil saturation and RWU rates for stakeholders agricultural management.

The remaining task until the end of the project is an advanced plant root phenotyping technology using geophysical methods. Based on laboratory measurements, we expect to give new insights on how to export the Partial Root Zone Drying strategy in the field.

All the above development have been discussed during e-meeting with FruitionSciences private company (located in France and USA) and with P. Gosset, a winemaker located in France. This led to formulate the remaining questions/issues before application of such methods in real field conditions. During the last year, I expect to increasingly work with winemakers and stakeholders in particular by publishing technical notes in dedicated journals and showcasing the developed tools and methods.
Catalog of agrogeophysical surveys in order to promote FAIR practicies
Work packages details