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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Agroecosystems Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #300675


Location: Agroecosystems Management Research

Title: Measurement of soil water content with dielectric dispersion frequency

item XU, JINGHUI - Northwest Agricultural & Forestry University
item Logsdon, Sally
item MA, XIAOYI - Northwest Agricultural & Forestry University
item HORTON, ROBERT - Iowa State University
item HAN, WENTING - Northwest Agricultural & Forestry University

Submitted to: Soil Science Society of America Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/11/2014
Publication Date: 8/8/2014
Citation: Xu, J., Logsdon, S.D., Ma, X., Horton, R., Han, W., Zhao, Y. 2014. Measurement of soil water content with dielectric dispersion frequency. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 78(5):1500-1506. DOI: 10.2136/sssaj2014.01.0044.

Interpretive Summary: A device was built to measure soil water content that would be accurate even in dry or salty soil, that cause problems with other soil water probes. The device was accurate for a range of temperatures as well. At first the information is primarily of interest to scientists. As the device is perfected and cost is reduced, the information would be of interest to consultants who monitor soil water for irrigation timing, crop productivity, appropriate pesticide function, survival of beneficial and test mesofauna, etc.

Technical Abstract: Frequency domain reflectometry (FDR) is an inexpensive and attractive methodology for repeated measurements of soil water content (SWC). Although there are some known measurement limitations for dry soil and sand, a fixed-frequency method is commonly employed using commercially available FDR probes. The purpose of our study was to determine if the soil dielectric spectrum could be used to measure changes in SWC. A multi-frequency FDR probe was constructed with a 6mm diameter and the soil dielectric spectrum was obtained. Using the dielectric spectrum, the dielectric dispersion frequency (DDR) was determined. It was discovered that changes in DDR were highly correlated with changes in the SWC and a polynomial equation was developed describing the relationship. The effectiveness of DDR for SWC measurement was evaluated for three soils and a sand over a range of SWC. The effects of soil temperature and soil salinity were also evaluated. Accurate measurements of SWC were obtained even in dry soil and sand. Soil temperature and soil salinity had no measureable effects on SWC determination. The use of DDR for SWC determination should be an effective and accurate methodology especially when dry soils, soil temperature, and/or soil salinity could potentially cause problems with the SWC measurements.