Analysis of the Effect of Tilling and Crop Type on Soil Structure Using 3D Laser Profilometry

Bianca B. Barreto (Lead / Corresponding author), Fernando P. Rivera, Blair M. McKenzie, Katharine Preedy, Yangminghao Liu, Lionel X. Dupuy, Elisângela Ribeiro, Roberto A. Braga

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Background and aim: Soil structure is an important indicator of the quality of soil, but detecting the early signs of soil degradation from soil structure is difficult. Developing precise instruments able to diagnose soil structure quickly is therefore critical to improve management practices. Here, the objective is to develop an instrument analysing the roughness of surfaces resulting from the fracture of soil cores, and to test the instrument’s ability to detect changes in soil structure cause by crop type and tillage. We have designed and constructed a 3D laser profilometer suitable for analysing standard soil cores. The 3D soil profiles were first assembled into a 3D surface using image analysis before roughness indicators could be computed. The method was tested by analysing how soil surface roughness was affected by crop varieties (barley and bean) and tillage (conventional tillage and no tillage). Results showed the method is precise and could reliably detect an influence of crop type and tillage on the roughness indicator. It was also observed that tillage reduced the difference in soil structure between the different cultures. Also, the soil in which barley grew had significantly lower roughness, irrespective of the tillage method. This could indicate that the roughness indicator is affected by biopores created by the root system. In conclusion, roughness indicators obtained from the fracture of soil cores can be easily obtained by laser profilometry and could offer a reliable method for assessing the effect of crop types and soil management on soil quality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2077
Number of pages13
JournalAgriculture (Switzerland)
Issue number11
Early online date31 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • digital image processing
  • no-tillage
  • soil management
  • soil structure
  • surface roughness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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