Passive soil heating using an inexpensive infrared mirror design – a proof of concept
Abstract. There is a need to understand the soil system response to warming in order to model the soil process response to predicted climate change. Current methods for soil warming include expensive and difficult to implement active and passive techniques. Here we test a simple, inexpensive in situ passive soil heating approach, based on easy to construct infrared mirrors that do not require automation or enclosures. The infrared mirrors consisted of 61 × 61 cm glass panels coated with infrared reflecting film. The mirrors as constructed are effective for soil heating in environments typified by an open vegetation canopy. Mirror tests were performed on three soils of varying texture, organic matter content, and heat capacity in a warm semi-arid environment. Results indicated that the infrared mirrors yielded significant heating and drying of soil surface and shallow subsurface relative to unwarmed control treatments, and that warming and drying effects were soil specific with greater potential warming on soils with lower volumetric heat capacity. Partial shading from the mirror frame did produce periods of relative cooling at specific times of the day but overall the mirrors yielded a net soil warming. The results demonstrate proof of concept that the infrared mirrors may be used to passively heat the near soil surface, providing an inexpensive, low-maintenance alternative to other passive and active soil heating technologies.