How to measure water potential

How to measure water potential

Essentially, there are only two primary measurement methods for water potentialtensiometers and vapor pressure methods. Tensiometers work in the wet range. Vapor pressure methods work in the dry range. Historically, these ranges did not overlap, but recent advances in tensiometer and temperature-sensing technology have changed that. Now, a skilled user with excellent methods and the best equipment can measure the full water potential range in the lab.

There are reasons to look at secondary measurement methods, though. Vapor pressure methods are not useful in situ, and the accuracy of the tensiometer must be paid for with constant, careful maintenance. Additionally, there are traditional methods like gypsum blocks, pressure plates, and filter paper that should be understood.

This article briefly covers the strengths and limitations of each method and how it works. Learn about:

  • Pressure plates
  • Vapor pressure methods
  • Tensiometers
  • Wind/Schindler technique
  • Secondary methods: capitalizing on the moisture characteristic
  • Matric potential sensors
  • Filter paper
  • Gypsum blocks
  • Granular matric sensors
  • Ceramic-based sensors
  • Heat dissipation sensors
  • Dielectric matric potential sensors

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