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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Clean Water Fund > Groundwater & Drinking Water Protection > N Recs and WQ Impacts > Lysimeter

Suction Tube Lysimeter


Drawing of a lysimeterOnce installed, suction tube lysimeters are placed under a vacuum pressure. The vacuum line is clasped shut and thus maintains a negative pressure within the tube. This negative pressure actually draws water in from the surrounding soil.

Suction tube lysimeters are placed at a depth of four to six feet below the soil surface. The water drawn into the lysimeter is water that escaped below the root zone of the crop. Water samples are analyzed for nitrate-nitrogen.

Lysimeters are installed in holes at the bottom of a trench. PVC pipe protects the plastic sampling lines from rodents.

How it works

Once installed, all the air inside the lysimeter is removed via the vacuum line. Removing all the air creates a negative pressure within the tube.

  • The area outside the tube (the soil) has a higher pressure than inside the tube.
  • Water naturally moves from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure.
  • The tendency for water to move from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure is what makes the lysimeters work. Actually, it is the same principle that plants use to draw water up through their roots!

Did you know?
Lysimeters are a common tool that researchers use to evaluate percolation and leaching loss in soils. Lysimeters are often used under landfills, storage tanks, industrial factories or agricultural fields. It is an inexpensive way to gather information about chemicals that are being exported as water moves through the soil.

Lysimeter use in MDA projects:

MDA Contacts

Dan Langseth
Fertilizer Management Adviser
Dan.Langseth@state.mn.us ~ 320-808-5834

Ryan Lemickson
Fertilizer Management Adviser
Ryan.Lemickson@state.mn.us ~ 612-209-9181