Why measure water potential?
An ecologist installed an extensive soil moisture sensor network to study the effect of slope orientation on plant available water. He collected reams of soil moisture data, but ultimately he was frustrated because he couldn’t tell how much of the water was available to plants. He’s not alone in his frustration. Accurate, inexpensive soil moisture sensors have made soil moisture a justifiably popular measurement, but as many people have discovered, a good hammer doesn’t make every soil water problem a nail. Water content can only show how much water there is. Hydraulic conductivity shows how fast water can move. But water potential shows if water is available to plants, whether it will move, and where it’s going to go.
In this article, get a comprehensive look at the science behind water potential measurement. Learn:
- Water potential: what it is and why you need it
- Intensive variables vs. extensive variables
- Watch 3 water potential webinars given by METER soil scientists
- How to calculate water potential
- The four different components of water potential
- How to measure water potential
- Water potential method comparisons
- Water potential ranges and units
- How to use water potential
- Soil moisture release curves and what they tell you
- The history of water potential
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