Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Bushland, Texas » Conservation and Production Research Laboratory » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #272378

Title: Design and testing of access-tube TDR soil water sensor

item Casanova, Joaquin
item Evett, Steven - Steve
item Schwartz, Robert

Submitted to: ASABE Annual International Meeting
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/8/2011
Publication Date: 8/8/2011
Citation: Casanova, J.J., Evett, S.R., Schwartz, R.C. 2011. Design and testing of access-tube TDR soil water sensor. ASABE Annual International Meeting. August 7-10, 2011, Louisville, KY. Paper No. 1110994. 2011 CDROM.

Interpretive Summary: Measuring the amount of water in soil is important in managing crop irrigation. Current methods of soil water estimation are limited by accuracy and precision. This paper presents a new sensor design and investigates the performance of the sensor using physical theory in addition to laboratory tests.

Technical Abstract: We developed the design of a waveguide on the exterior of an access tube for use in time-domain reflectometry (TDR) for in-situ soil water content sensing. In order to optimize the design with respect to sampling volume and losses, we derived the electromagnetic (EM) fields produced by a TDR sensor with this geometry. Using this analytical derivation, the effects on sampling area and waveform shape of varying geometry and soil water content were examined. The theoretical results were compared to laboratory measurements of different design variations in air, triethylene glycol, deionized water, sand, and clay in order to evaluate sensor performance and model accuracy. Both theoretical results and lab measurements indicated a positive, though not strong, relationship between electrode separation distance and (EM) field penetration into the soil or other medium with which sensor prototypes were surrounded. Results indicated good correspondence between the hybrid mode EM model predictions and measurements, indicating the value of the hybrid mode analysis. The relationship between measured pulse travel time and soil volumetric water content was quadratic rather than linear as in conventional TDR. Different quadratic calibration equations were obtained for sand and clay soils, indicating that soil-specific calibrations will be required for this design.