Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2023-3159
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2023-3159
19 Jan 2024
 | 19 Jan 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Technical note: An open-source, low-cost system for continuous nitrate monitoring in soil and open water

Sahiti Bulusu, Cristina Prieto García, Helen E. Dahlke, and Elad Levintal

Abstract. Nitrate (NO3-), mainly leaching with soil pore water, is the primary nonpoint source pollutant of groundwater worldwide. Obtaining real-time information on nitrate levels in soils would allow gaining a better understanding of the sources and transport dynamics of nitrate through the unsaturated zone. However, conventional nitrate detection techniques (e.g. soil sample analysis) necessitate costly, laboratory-grade equipment for analysis, along with human resources, resulting in a laborious and time-intensive procedure. These drawbacks raise the need to develop cost-effective and automated systems for in situ nitrate measurements in field conditions. This study presents the development of a low-cost, portable, automated system for field measurements of nitrate in soil pore water and open water bodies. The system is based on the spectrophotometric determination of nitrate using a single reagent. The system design and processing software are openly accessible, including a building guide, to allow duplicating or changing the system according to user-specific needs. Three field tests, conducted over five weeks, validated the system’s measurement capabilities within the range of 0–10 ppm NO3--N with a low RMSE of <0.2 ppm NO3--N when comparing the results to standard laboratory nitrate analysis. Data derived from such a system allow tracking of the temporal variation in soil nitrate, thus opening new possibilities for diverse soil and nutrient management studies.

Sahiti Bulusu, Cristina Prieto García, Helen E. Dahlke, and Elad Levintal

Status: open (until 26 Mar 2024)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-3159', Anonymous Referee #1, 14 Feb 2024 reply
Sahiti Bulusu, Cristina Prieto García, Helen E. Dahlke, and Elad Levintal
Sahiti Bulusu, Cristina Prieto García, Helen E. Dahlke, and Elad Levintal

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Short summary
Do-it-yourself hardware is a new approach for improving measurement resolution in research. Here we present a low-cost, automated system for field measurements of nitrate in soil pore water and open water bodies. All data hardware components cost is $1,100, much cheaper than other available commercial solutions. We provide the complete building guide to reduce any technical barriers, which we hope will allow easier reproducibility and open new soil and environmental monitoring applications.