Original research articles

Contribution of soil electric resistivity measurements to the studies on soil/grapevine water relations


The classical techniques that allow to quantify the soil water status such as the gravimetric method or the use of neutrons probes do not give access to the volume of soil explored by the plant root system. On the contrary, electric tomography can be used to have a global vision on the water exchange area between soil and plant. The measurement of soil electric resistivity, as a non destructive, spatially integrative technique, has recently been introduced into viticulture. The use of performing equipment and adapted software allows for rapid data processing and gives the possibility to spatialize the variations of soil texture or humidity in two or three dimensions. Soil electric resistivity has been tested for the last three years at the Experimental Unit on Grapevine and Vine, INRA, Angers, France, to study the water supply to the vine in different “terroir” conditions. Resistivity measurements were carried out with the resistivity meter Syscal R1+ (Iris Instruments, France) equipped with 21 electrodes. Those electrodes were lined up on the soil surface in a direction perpendiculary to 5 grapevine rows with an electrode spacing of 0.5 m. and a dipole-dipole arrangement. Resistivity measurements were performed on the same place at different times in order to study soil moisture variations. This experimental set up has permitted to visualise the soil stratification and individualize some positive electric anomalies corresponding to preferential drying ; this desiccation could be attributed to grapevine root activity. The soil bulk subject to the water up-take could be defined more precisely and in some types of soil, available water may even be quantified. Terroir effect on grapevine root activity has also been shown up on two different experimental parcels through electric tomography and first results indicate that it is possible to monitor the effects of soil management (inter-row grassing) or different rootstocks on the water supply to the vine. As soil electric resistivity depends on soil parameters (texture, structure, humidity or temperatures) that explain most of vine development and berry ripening variations, relationships between some physiological variables and electric resistivity measurements have also been tested with promising results. Geophysical techniques such as soil electric resistivity constitute a tool for scientists and recent technological developments are now facilitating the use of these equipments. The measurement of soil electric resistivity could be applied on many agronomic studies. Electric imagery could contribute to a better characterisation of the available soil water content and, as an integrative method, this one could also be used to explain interactions between soil characteristics and vine development. However, electric tomography is not to replace classical methods of water availability measurement but it has to take part to the elaboration of global indices.


Etienne Goulet


Affiliation : Cellule « Terroirs Viticoles », Confédération des Vignerons du Val de Loire, 42 rue Georges Morel, 49071 Beaucouzé cedex

Gérard Barbeau

Affiliation : INRA, UE1117 UVV, F-49071 Angers, France


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