In all soil types and textures, soil moisture sensors are effective at measuring the percentage of water. Dual measurements—using both types of soil sensors: a water potential soil sensor in addition to a soil moisture soil sensor—gives researchers the total soil moisture picture and are much more effective at determining when, and how much, to water. Water content data show subtle changes due to daily water uptake and also indicate how much water needs to be applied to maintain the root zone at an optimal level. Water potential data determine what that optimal level is for a particular soil type and texture. Read more about how this works here.
Within the area of a study site, soil moisture variability arises from differences in soil texture, amount and type of vegetation cover, topography, precipitation and other weather factors, management practices, and soil hydraulic properties (how fast water moves through the soil). Researchers should consider the variability in landscape features to get a sense of how many sample locations are necessary to capture the diversity in soil moisture. Scientists often measure soil moisture at different depths to understand the effects of soil variability and to observe how water is moving through the soil profile. Large research areas or sites with high variability often require a large number of soil moisture sensors. The EC-5 soil moisture sensor or the TEROS 10 soil moisture sensor are economical choices for scientists who need a large soil sensor network. The TEROS 11 soil moisture sensor and TEROS 12 soil sensor, our newest sensors, have a larger volume of influence (1 liter), which can help smooth variability.
Six short videos teach you everything you need to know about soil water content and soil water potential—and why you should measure them together. Plus, master the basics of soil hydraulic conductivity.
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