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Geoderma 181182 (2012) 2229

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Geoderma
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/geoderma

Soil pore characteristics assessed from X-ray micro-CT derived images


and correlations to soil friability
Lars J. Munkholm a, b,, Richard J. Heck b, Bill Deen c
a
b
c

Aarhus University, Department of Agroecology, P.O. Box 50, DK-8830, Tjele, Denmark
University of Guelph, School of Environmental Sciences, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1
University of Guelph, Department of Plant Agriculture, Guelph, ON, Canada N1G 2W1

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 27 December 2010
Received in revised form 9 February 2012
Accepted 17 February 2012
Available online 31 March 2012
Keywords:
Soil friability
X-ray CT scanning
Drop-shatter test
Soil pore characteristics

a b s t r a c t
X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanning technology has, in recent decades, been shown to be a very powerful technique to visualize and quantify soil structure. The objective of this project was to quantify soil pore
characteristics, on undisturbed eld moist soil, using a high resolution X-ray CT scanner and link then these
results to soil friability assessed using the drop shatter method. Minimally disturbed soil cores were taken
from selected treatments in a long-term rotation and tillage treatment experiment located on a silt loam at
the Elora Research Station near Elora, Ontario, Canada. Soil cores varied in porosity and pore characteristics.
A drop shatter test was used as a reference procedure to quantify soil friability. The top 40 mm of the 80 mm
high soil samples were scanned using a X-ray micro-CT scanner. The selected region of interest
(36 36 36 mm) was reconstructed with a voxel size of 60 m. Estimated surface area, produced from the
drop-shatter test, varied between 0.2 and 1.62 m 2 kg 1, and an average of 0.79 m2 kg 1. Total and airlled porosity was determined on the soil cores using traditional methods. Total porosity ranged from 41
to 60 m 3 100 m 3, and an average of 49 m 3 100 m 3. The air-lled porosity, at sampling/testing, ranged between 5 and 32 m3 100 m 3, with an average of 15 m 3 100 m 3. The porosity determined from CT imagery
ranged between 1 and 31 m 3 100 m 3, with an average of 4.5 m3 100 m 3. The number of branches, junctions and end points averaged 298, 117 and 198 per cm 3, respectively. We found signicant and strong correlations between the soil pore characteristics assessed on the whole soil cores and the characteristics of the
air-lled pores determined using high-resolution X-ray computer tomography (CT). Our study conrmed a
signicant correlation between soil friability, expressed by surface area produced by standardized dropshatter, and soil pore characteristics. The strongest correlations were found with porosity, surface area and
number of junctions per cm 3.
2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
X-ray computed tomography (CT) scanning technology has, in
recent decades, been shown to be a very powerful technique to visualize and quantify soil structure, as reviewed by Taina et al.
(2008). The application was, in the early years after adoption in
soil science, concentrated on describing macro-structures such as
biopores (Capowiez et al., 2003; Gregory et al., 2003), tree roots
(Pierret et al., 1999) and dense layers (Lipiec and Hatano, 2003).
With the development of high-resolution micro-CT scanning over
the last decade, the technique has also been applied to other aspects of soil micromorphology. It has especially been used to quantify soil pore space characteristics on images with voxel size of
Abbreviations: BD, Bulk density; CT, computed tomography; a, Air-lled porosity;
T, Total porosity; CT, Air-lled porosity derived from CT imagery; MWD, Mean weight
diameter; ROI, Region of interest; SACT, Surface area of CT derived air-lled pore space;
SADS, Surface area generated by drop shatter test.
Corresponding author. Tel.: + 45 87157727.
E-mail address: lars.munkholm@agrsci.dk (L.J. Munkholm).
0016-7061/$ see front matter 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.geoderma.2012.02.024

b50 m (Elliot and Heck, 2007; Peth et al., 2010; Quinton et al.,
2009; Schluter et al., 2011).
Soil pore characteristics are important for a large range of essential
soil functions such as colloid, water and gas transport, habitat for soil
organisms as well as soil mechanical properties such as soil friability.
The latter is a key soil physical property, yielding valuable information on the ease of producing a favorable seed- and rooting bed during tillage operations (Munkholm, 2011). Soil friability is related to
brittle fracture of soil as described by Braunack et al. (1979) and
Dexter and Watts (2000). Brittle fracture results from the progressive
development of fracture planes, resulting in a crack opening and a
sudden loss in strength (Hatibu and Hettiaratchi, 1993). The propagation of cracks in an unconned stressed soil depends on the frequency
and the morphology (connectivity, orientation) of the air-lled pores
as well as the strength at the crack tips as stressed by Hallett et al.
(1995a,b). A strong link between soil fragmentation/soil friability
and air-lled soil pore space was conrmed by Munkholm et al.
(2002), and this suggest a strong correlation between soil friability
and pore characteristics derived from 3D images of soil structure.

L.J. Munkholm et al. / Geoderma 181182 (2012) 2229

23

Table 1
Laboratory results from soil core measurements.
Standard soil characteristics

g cm
Mean
St. dev.
High
Low

Drop shatter

BD
3

a
3

m 100 m

1.36
0.13
1.57
1.07

Water content
3

m 100 m

48.6
5.1
59.5
40.7

m 100 m

15.3
7.0
32.2
5.2

33.3
3.5
38.1
25.5

The objective of this project was to quantify soil pore characteristics on undisturbed eld moist soil using a high-resolution X-ray CT
scanner and then link these results to pore characteristics assessed
using traditional methods and soil friability assessed using the drop
shatter method. We hypothesized 1. Signicant and strong correlations between soil pore characteristics assessed using traditional
and X-ray CT methods and 2. Signicant and strong correlations between soil pore characteristics of especially the air-lled macropores
and soil friability. Samples were taken from selected treatments in a
long-term rotation and tillage experiment. The experiment allowed
us to test the hypotheses for a given soil type, on samples that varied
in soil pore characteristics and friability. In this paper we do not focus
on treatment effects per se; they are reported by Munkholm et al.
(accepted for publication) together with other data from the
experiment.

g 100 g

24.5
3.0
30.2
17.9

MWD

SADS

mm

m2 kg 1

cm2 cm 3

15.3
5.6
28.7
8.0

0.79
0.34
1.62
0.20

10.4
3.7
17.4
3.1

barley. In 2010, rst-year corn was grown in R6. The tillage treatments included no tillage (NT) and conventional tillage with moldboard plowing (MP). Moldboard plowing (to 20 cm depth) was last
carried out on November 18, 2009. Secondary tillage, in association
with MP, consisted of two passes by a eld cultivator and packer
within 1 day prior to crop seeding in the spring. The tillage plots are
7 17 m; and 8 rows of corn were sown in each of the studied plots
on May 7 2010.
On May 28, 2010, two samples were taken from the 1020 cm
depth in each of the 16 plots included in this study. One sample was
taken between rows 2 and 3 and another between rows 6 and 7.
These rows had not been trafcked in relation to crop establishment.
The samples were taken in the center of the plots. Immediately after
sampling, the samples were stored in a refrigerator at 5 C until CT
scanning as well as between CT scanning and the drop-shatter test.
The CT images from two samples were lost and data analyses were,
therefore, carried out on in total 30 samples.

2. Materials and methods


2.1. Soil sampling

2.2. CT scanning

Minimally disturbed soil cores ( = 6.4 cm, height = 8.0 cm) were
taken from the long-term rotation and tillage trial (initiated in 1980)
located at the University of Guelph' s Elora Research Station near
Elora, Ontario, Canada (4339 N, 8025W). The soil is mapped as a
Woolwich silt loam and classied as a Grey Brown Luvisol (CSSC,
1998) or Albic Luvisol (WRB, 2006). The particulate size distribution
is on average: 16, 44, 40 and 2.13 g 100 g 1 of clay, silt, sand and organic carbon, respectively. Thirty-year average rainfall (19702000)
is reported at 920 mm and it is distributed relatively uniformly over
the twelve months. The average monthly temperatures for January,
April and July are 7.6, 5.9 and 19.7 C, respectively
(Meteorological Services Canada, 2010).
The experimental design is a randomized block split plot with four
replicates. The main plot treatment is rotation and the plot treatment
is tillage. Seven 4-course rotations are included in the trial. Samples
were taken from Rotation 1 (R1), designated CCCC, which is continuous corn (Zea mays L.) and Rotation 6 (R6), designated CC
O(RC)B(RC), which is corn, corn, oats (Avena fatua L.) and spring
barley (Hordeum vulgare L.). Red clover (Trifolium pretense L.), designated (RC), was used as an under seeded cover crop in oats and spring

The top 40 mm of the soil samples were scanned using an EVS


(now GE Medical, London, Canada) micro-CT scanner, model MS8X130. The samples were scanned at 120 kV, 170 mA and 3500 ms exposure generating an axial sequence of X-ray attenuation imagery. A
high-pass copper lter was utilized, between the tube and the sample, to minimize the hardening of artifacts and maximize the contrast
between sample phases. The individual scans took 3.5 h. Software
from GE Healthcare (GE Reconstruction Utility), specically written
for the unique instrumental design, was used to reconstruct the
16 bit axial image into a 3D image model. The resulting 3D imagery
had a voxel size of 20 m. To reduce uncorrelated noise from the CT
image, a 3D low-pass Gaussian lter was applied in Micro View (GE
Healthcare, 2006), as described by Tarquis et al. (2009). For each
soil sample, a region of interest (ROI) of 36 mm 36 mm 36 mm
was generated in Micro View. The ROI was located in the center of
the sample. The le size was large and we were, due to computing
constraints, not able to make subsequent analysis on the entire dataset. We choose to reduce resolution instead of volume as we were
mainly interested in the largest air-lled macropores. These pores
we assumed to be of strongest importance in relation to soil

Table 2
Results from image analysis on CT scan images with 60 m voxels.

Mean
S.D.
High
Low
a
b

No. pores

CT

Porosity largest

CT/a

SACT

SA largest

Branches

Junctions

End points

No. cm 3

m3 100 m 3

% of CT

m3 100 m 3

cm2 cm 3

% of SACT

No. cm 3

No. cm 3

No. cm 3

94
74
277
15

4.5a
(0.37)b
30.7
1.1

61
27
99
22

37
25
114
11

2.3a
(0.3)b
12.9
0.6

56
26
96
17

279a
(0.34)b
2142
76

117a
(0.34)b
1036
33

198a
(0.33)b
922
53

Geometric means.
S.D. for log10-transformed data.

24

L.J. Munkholm et al. / Geoderma 181182 (2012) 2229

fragmentation. The ROI was reconstructed with a voxel size of 60 m


to create a manageable le size.
2.3. Binary thresholding
CT imagery of soil typically contains a large proportion of mixed
voxels, i.e. voxels containing more than one of the major constituents:
air, water and solid; this is due, in part, to the existence of particles
and pores smaller than the voxel size. Therefore, thresholding is of utmost importance and the selected way of thresholding has traditionally been highly user dependent (Baveye et al., 2010). In this paper,
we modied the standardized and automated thresholding procedure
developed by Elliot and Heck (2007) and further described by Tarquis
et al. (2009). The open source software program ImageJ was used for
binary thresholding and image analysis (Rasband, 2005). Each image
slice had a depth of 60 m and a length and width of 36 mm. A standard deviation (SD) variance plug-in was applied to the stack of images and this created a modied stack of low variance (LV) voxels.
The threshold limit was user set at an upper value of 1.10 and a
lower value of 0.90 standard deviations. Voxels that had variance
above 10% from the surrounding voxels neighboring 124 voxels
(5 5 5 unit volume) were deemed too heterogeneous and were
given a zero value, and the remaining areas of low variance kept
their original values; the zeros were changed to become Not-ANumber (NAN). A vast majority of the voxels exhibited variances
larger than 10% and this will obscure the threshold value. By removing these voxels from the calculation, the peaks of the specic phases
will be solely represented. The multi-thresholder plug-in was used

for thresholding the images, specically employing the threshold algorithm created by Huang and Wang (1995). The resulting threshold
value was then applied when thresholding the original stack of CT
images.
2.4. Image analysis
General pore characteristics in the 3D images were generated for
each ROI using the ImageJ plug-in 3D object counter plug-in (Bolte
and Cordelires, 2006). This plug-in were used to count the number
of unconnected pores and determine characteristic such as volume
and surface area for the individual pores. The algorithm used the
nearest neighbor approach to separate objects. Based on the individual pore results, we calculated the total pore volume and surface area.
The In this study, a minimum pore volume lter of 3 voxels was used
in 3D object counter, this is to reduce the possibility of interpreting
noise as an indication of a pore. A skeleton reconstruction was also
performed for each sample to determine pore branching of the
pores, average length of the pores and maximum pore length. In
this study the plug-in provided by BoneJ (Doube et al., 2010) is
used to achieve these results. Firstly, the binary stack undergoes a
3D thinning algorithm in the plug-in skeletonize 3D. The thinning algorithm utilizes the 3D erosion function in ImageJ, which erodes the
pores surface until only the skeleton remains. Erosion was performed
symmetrically in order to guarantee medial position of the skeleton
lines and such that the connectedness of the object is preserved
(Lee et al., 1994). This skeletonized binary stack is then put through
the analyze skeleton algorithm within the BoneJ plug-in, which

CT=3.8 m3 100m-3; SADS=0.82 m2 kg-1

CT=2.8 m3 100m-3; SADS=0.43 m2 kg-1

CT=3.0 m3 100m-3; SADS=0.96 m2 kg-1

CT=2.1 m3 100m-3; SADS=0.56 m2 kg-1

Fig. 1. Visualization of pore structure from the X-ray CT imagery of four different samples (598 598 560 voxels total volume).

L.J. Munkholm et al. / Geoderma 181182 (2012) 2229

provides a summary of number, length (mean, maximum and total)


and junction of branches in each ROI. Visualization of the 3D images
was carried out using the binary stack the plug-in 3D image viewer
in ImageJ. This plug-in generates a 3D representation of the stack
and allows for visual assessment of the ROI.

2.5. Drop shatter test


Soil fragmentation behavior was evaluated in the eld by a
drop shatter test modied from the methods described by Hadas
and Wolf (1984) and Schjnning et al. (2002). Once the CT imaging was completed, the undisturbed cores were gently pressed out
of the tubes and then dropped from 2.0 m depth onto a concrete
oor. The soil was subsequently air-dried and passed through a
nest of sieves with the openings of 19, 9.2, 4, 2 and 1 mm. The
amount of material in each size class was recorded. Based on the
results, the mean weight diameter (MWD) and the approximate
specic surface area (m 2 kg 1) of the samples were calculated
according to Hadas and Wolf (1983). These parameters have
been used as indices of soil friability as reviewed by Munkholm
(2011).

2.6. Standard soil core measurements


All soil samples were weighed before CT scanning and dropshatter test, (eld moist) condition, in air-dry condition after dropshatter and in oven dry condition (105 C, 24 h) after sieving. This
allowed us to calculate total porosity and air-lled porosity at sampling as well as bulk density when assuming a particle density of
2.65 g cm 3.

25

2.7. Statistical analysis


All statistical analyses were carried out using SAS (Version 9.2, SAS
Institute, Cary, NC) (SAS Institute, 2005). We used PROC INSIGHT to
test data for normality. The pore characteristics derived from CT imagery were log-transformed to yield normality. We used PROC GLM
to test interaction between soil friability and pore characteristics.
There was no signicant effect of management observed on the relationships between soil friability and pore characteristics.
3. Results and discussion
3.1. Standard soil characteristics
The rotation and tillage experiment allowed us to test the hypotheses on samples with a wide range in basic soil pore characteristics for a
given soil type. Total porosity ranged from 41 to 60 m3 100 m 3 with
an average of 49 m 3 100 m 3 (Table 1). These values are in correspondence with previous measurements from the experiment (e.g. Mueller
et al., 2009). The air-lled porosity at sampling/testing displayed an
even larger relative variation, i.e. from 5 to 32 m 3 100 m 3. The
water content at sampling was, on average, 24 g 100 g 1. This indicates a matric potential around 333 hPa, at sampling, according to
water retention data from the Elora site (Parkin, unpublished data).
Thus the soil could be considered within the range for optimum friability (300 to 1000 hPa) according to Utomo and Dexter (1981) as
well as Munkholm and Kay (2002).
3.2. Drop shatter test
The average mean weight diameter (MWD) was 15.3 mm, but it
ranged from 8.0 to 28.7 mm (Table 1). The surface area produced

Fig. 2. The 3D skeleton reconstruction for the four samples shown in Fig. 2 (598 598 560 voxels total volume).

26

L.J. Munkholm et al. / Geoderma 181182 (2012) 2229

Fig. 3. Correlations between soil pore characteristics. T: total porosity a: airlled porosityCT: airlled porosity CT images, SACT: surface area CT images.

from the drop-shatter test varied between 0.2 and 1.62 m 2 kg 1,


with an average of 0.79 m 2 kg 1. This is comparable to the values
reported for a drop shatter test on a sandy loam reported by
Munkholm et al. (2002). The lowest degree of fragmentation was
found for high density samples. The surface area produced decreased
signicantly and linearly with increasing BD (R 2 = 0.62).
3.3. CT scanning data
The average number of pores for the ROIs was 89 per cm 3. However, only a few inter-aggregate pores dominated the pore volume
detected from the CT imagery. The pore volume of the largest pore
accounted for between 11 and 99% of the total CT volume. The pore
volume, CT, displayed a geometric mean of 4.6 m 3 100 m 3 and ranged between 0.9 and 30.7 m 3 100 m 3 (Table 2). Examples of the
pore network for four samples are shown in Fig. 1.
Essentially, the image analysis separated air-lled volume from
solid and water and, therefore, the CT values can be compared
with the air-lled pore space value (a) from the standard core
measurements. On average we were able to indentify 37% of the
air-lled pore space in the CT imagery. The relatively large difference between a and CT is not surprising, as the CT image voxel
size (60 m) was larger than the expected minimum size of pores
drained at the specied water potential, i.e. pores down to

= 10 m will be emptied at 333 hPa when using the La Place


equation. Thus, even when using the high-resolution micro-CT
technique applied in this study, we were only able to detect airlled macropores. In one case, CT was larger than a. This is likely
due to the fact that ROI accounted for only about 25% of the total
sample volume. The surface area showed a geometric mean of
2.3 cm cm 3, with values ranging between 0.6 and 12.9 cm 2. The
results from the skeletonized procedure further showed a geometric mean number (per cm 3) of 279, 117 and 198, respectively for
branches, junctions and end points. The range between lowest
and largest was large, e.g. 76 to 2142 for the number of branches
per cm 3. Examples of skeletonized pore network for four samples
are shown in Fig. 2. Skeletonization of 3D soil pore network has
previously been shown to provide valuable information on earthworm burrows network (Capowiez et al., 1998, 2003) and pore
network in aggregates (Peth et al., 2008).
3.4. Correlation between soil pore characteristics
Signicant linear and positive correlations were found between
most of the different soil pore characteristics (Fig. 3). Strongest correlations were found between parameters assessed at similar level of
observation. That is, the correlations were high between parameters
determined on the whole samples, i.e. T and a, (R 2 = 0.78), the

L.J. Munkholm et al. / Geoderma 181182 (2012) 2229

27

Fig. 4. Relationship between pore characteristics on whole soil cores and friability assessed by drop shatter. *** indicates signicant difference at P b 0.001 level.

parameters assessed from the X-ray CT imagery, i.e. log CT and log
SACT, (R 2 = 0.82) and the parameters assessed from the skeletonized
images (R 2 > 0.72 for any of the combinations of log branches, log
junctions and log end points). Total and air-lled porosity was rather
strongly correlated to porosity and surface area assessed from the Xray CT imagery, (R 2 = 0.510.64) but weakly correlated to the parameters measured on the skeletonized images (R 2 b 0.33). Porosity and
surface area assessed from the X-ray CT imagery, also correlated rather strongly to parameters assessed from the skeletonized images, especially with log branches (R 2 = 0.440.60) and log junctions
(R 2 = 0.520.68). Log SACT correlated typically better to these properties than log CT.

between the surface area produced by the drop shatter test and
total porosity, T, and air-lled pore space, a (Fig. 4). Surprisingly,
the correlation to total porosity was stronger than to a, i.e.
R 2 = 0.66 compared with 0.52. We had expected a stronger correlation to a, as the air-lled pores are expected to play a key role
in brittle fracture as described earlier. However, fracture not only
depends on the abundance and characteristics of the air-lled
pore space but also on the strength at the crack tips. Total porosity
yields information on the average density and thus the packing of
soil elements. Thus, T may to a larger extent than air-lled porosity, reect both key issues of brittle fracture (i.e. stress concentration at crack tips and strength at crack tips).
The pore characteristics from the CT imagery displayed positive
and signicant correlations to soil friability. The correlation to the
pore volume, specically log (CT), was weaker than to a (R 2 = 0.40
and 0.52, respectively) (Fig. 5b and a). It is possible that we may
have been able to improve the t to the drop shatter data if we had
been able to quantify a larger proportion of the air-lled pore space.
Remember, that pores with diameter in the range between 10 and

3.5. Correlation between soil friability and pore characteristics


In general, the surface area parameter, SADS calculated from the
drop-shatter test, was best correlated to the pore characteristics
data. Therefore, for simplicity, we only show correlations including
SADS in the following. There was a signicant positive correlation

2.0

1.8
*
=0
.4

**

)R

.40

(S
A
10

og
0.
+

1.0

8
0.
5

0.6

0.8

0.6

DS

SA

DS

9+
0.3

0.8

1.2

67
*l

(P
10

og
2l

1.0

1.4

CT

)R
or

1.2

CT

=0

1.4

SA

Surface area, m 2 kg-1

1.6

0*

1.6

0.6

0.4

0.4

0.2

0.2

0.0
0.1

10

Porosity,, m3 100m-3

0.1

10

Surface area, m 2 kg-1

1.8

2.0

0.0
100

Surface area,CT, m2 cm-3

Fig. 5. Relationship between pore characteristics from the X-ray CT imagery and friability assessed by drop shatter. *** and ** indicate signicant difference at P b 0.001 and P b 0.01
levels, respectively.

L.J. Munkholm et al. / Geoderma 181182 (2012) 2229

2.0

Surface area, m 2 kg-1

1.8

2.0

1.8

1.6

1.6

1.4

1.4

1.2

1.2

1.0

1.0

0.8

0.8

0.6

0.6

0.4

0.4

0.2

0.2

0.0
10

100

1000

# branches cm-3

10

100

1000

# junctions cm-3

10

100

1000

Surface area, m 2 kg-1

28

0.0

# end points cm-3

Fig. 6. Relationship between pore characteristics from X-ray CT imagery skeletonized procedure and friability assessed by drop shatter. ***, ** and * indicate signicant difference
at P b 0.001, P b 0.01 and P b 0.05 levels, respectively.

60 m were not expected to be included in CT and, therefore, we only


detected in average 37% of a with the described scanning and image
analysis procedure. The correlation to surface area of the pore space,
SACT was at the same level as for the pore volume, CT.
Signicant correlations were found between SADS and the log to
the number of branches, junctions and end points per cm 3
(R 2 = 0.35, 0.44, and 0.15, respectively) (Fig. 6a, b, c). This means
that number of branches and junctions explained variation in SADS
as good as log (CT) and log (SACT). Good correlation between fragmentation and density of branches and junctions corresponded with
what we had expected. A high density of branches and junctions signies an extensive, well-connected and complex pore network,
which implies a high probability of crack propagation and interaction.
Given a random crack orientation, there will be a high chance of crack
propagation irrespective of the orientation of the applied force. The
high density of branches means short distances between individual
branches and thus a high chance of crack interact according to
Hallett et al. (1995b). There was a tendency to improved t by combining log (CT) and log (No. of junctions per cm 3) (R 2 = 0.48).
We also found signicantly improved t when combining air-lled
pore space (a) with log (No. of junctions per cm 3) (R 2 = 0.62).
This indicates that the morphology of the air-lled pore space play
signicant role in relation to soil friability.
3.6. Potential for improved tting to drop shatter data?
The pore characteristics derived for high resolution CT scanning explained, at best, 48% of the variation in friability as
expressed by SADS. Better correlation may have been achieved if
we had scanned the whole 80 mm long sample and not just the
top 40 mm. However, a much improved correlation cannot be
expected from increasing the volume scanned. The selected
(36 * 36 * 36 mm = 46,656 mm 3 or 47 cm 3) was around 10 times
larger than the representative volume (REV) value of 35 cm 3
for porosity and specic surface area estimated by Elliot et al.
(2010) in another X-ray microCT imagery study. Improved t to
drop shatter data may also have been achieved by obtaining
more detailed information on the air-lled pore space, i.e. ner
spatial resolution and more sophisticated information on pore
morphology. Information on the density and variation in density
of the solid material may also be useful in improving t to drop
shatter data. This may add valuable information on the strength
of the soil at the crack tips. General indices reecting connectivity
and entropy such as Eulers number (Vogel and Roth, 2001) and
fractal dimension (Tarquis et al., 2008, 2009) derived from CT imagery may also be helpful in improving ts to experimental friability data.

4. Conclusions
We found signicant and rather strong correlations between the
soil pore characteristics assessed on the whole soil cores and the
characteristics of the air-lled pores determined using highresolution X-ray computer tomography (CT). Our study revealed a
signicant correlation between soil friability, expressed by surface
area produced by standardized drop-shatter, and soil pore characteristics. The strongest correlations were found with pore volume, surface area and number of junctions per cm 3. At best, the CT pore
characteristics explained 48% of the variation which was at the
same level as for bulk soil air-lled porosity but poorer than for
total porosity (R 2 = 0.66). There is a need for further studies to improve the correlations between CT soil characteristics and soil friability. This study only included a soil from one soil type and at a single
water content. More studies are needed to validate our ndings for
other soil types and for a range of water contents.
Acknowledgments
This work was supported by the OECD Co-operative Research Programme Fellowship, OECD Trade and Agriculture (TAD/PROG) and
the Danish Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries through the
Sustainable Plant Production Systems to Mitigate Global Warming
(CoolCrop) Project. Funding for the acquisition of X-ray CT scanner
was provided to Heck and Deen from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Innovation Trust. The help received from
Tatiana Rittl during sampling and CT scanning is gratefully
acknowledged.
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