Development of management strategies for efficient water utilization of crop production requires measurements of changes in soil water content on a dynamic basis. Many of the methods currently used for measuring these changes are destructive, slow, or relatively expensive for large-scale investigations. A commercially available, low-cost, nondestructive soil moisture sensor for measuring changes in soil volumetric water content (VWC) on the basis of changes in the dielectric constant of the soil water was evaluated under laboratory conditions for two soil series (Amarillo fine sandy loam [fine-loamy, mixed, superactive, thermic Aridic Paleustalfs] and Pullman clay loam [fine, mixed, thermic Torretic Paleustolls]) and a potting material across a wide range of water contents. Probes were placed in containers filled with deionized water and soil. Containers with Amarillo fine sandy loam were placed in a programmable temperature chamber and subjected to a series of changes in both temperature and VWC. Containers with Pullman soil and potting material were only subjected to changes in VWC at a constant temperature. Probe output at a constant temperature between air dry and a VWC of 0.25 m3 m−3 was linear for the Pullman soil and potting material and nonlinear for the Amarillo soil. When the Amarillo soil temperature varied between 15.9 and 39.1°C−1 at a constant VWC, probe output changed the equivalent of 0.10 m3 m−3. The temperature sensitivity was 0.5 mV °C−1 for air-dry and about 5 mV °C−1 for wet Amarillo soil. We conclude that probe output is soil specific and, given the nonlinear response to increasing water content on some soils and sensitivity to temperature, will require soil-specific calibration equations.

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