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Soil Moisture 102: Water Content Methods–Demystified

Dr. Colin Campbell compares measurement theory, the pros and cons of each method, and why modern sensing is about more than just the sensor.

So many sensors, so little time

Choosing a water content sensor from the many sensor types available may leave you feeling confused and overwhelmed. Every measurement method has strengths and limitations, but which method is right for you? 

It’s not just about the sensor anymore

In this 20-minute webinar, Dr. Colin Campbell demystifies the differences between soil water content measurement methods. He explores the scientific measurement theory and the pros and cons of each method. He also explains which technology might apply to different types of field research, and why modern sensing is about more than just the sensor.


  • Measurement theory behind the gravimetric method, capacitance, time-domain reflectometry (TDR), time-domain transmission (TDT), frequency-domain reflectometry (FDR), resistance sensors, and more 
  • Which technology applies to different field situations
  • What factors matter when choosing a sensor type
  • Why some methods are not research-grade
  • How modern sensing is about more than just the sensor
  • How to determine a good price-to-performance ratio for your unique application

Next steps


Our scientists have decades of experience helping researchers and growers measure the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum. 


Dr. Colin Campbell has been a research scientist at METER for 19 years following his Ph.D. at Texas A&M University in Soil Physics.  He is currently serving as Vice President of Environment. He is also adjunct faculty with the Dept. of Crop and Soil Sciences at Washington State University where he co-teaches Environmental Biophysics, a class he took over from his father, Gaylon, nearly 20 years ago.  Dr. Campbell’s early research focused on field-scale measurements of CO2 and water vapor flux but has shifted toward moisture and heat flow instrumentation for the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum.

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