Calibration of capacitance probe sensors in a saline silty clay soil

T.J. Kelleners, R.W.O. Soppe, J.E. Ayars, T.H. Skaggs

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71 Citations (Scopus)


Capacitance probe sensors are a popular electromagnetic method of measuring soil water content. However, there is concern about the influence of soil salinity on the sensor readings. In this study capacitance sensors are calibrated for a saline silty clay soil. An electric circuit model is used to relate the sensor's resonant frequency F to the permittivity () of the soil. The circuit model is able to account for the effect of dielectric losses on the resonant frequency. Dielectric mixing models and empirical models are used to relate the permittivity to the soil water content (). The results show that the electric circuit model does not fit the F¿() data if the calibrated bulk electrical conductivity (EC) model is used. The dielectric losses are overestimated. Increasing the exponent c in the tortuosity factor of the bulk EC model and thereby lowering the bulk EC and the dielectric losses improves the performance of the model. Measured and calculated volumetric water contents compare reasonably well (R2 = 0.884). However, only 73 out of 88 data points can be described. The rejected points are invariably at high water contents where the high dielectric losses result in the sensor frequency being insensitive to ().
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)770-778
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • time-domain reflectometry
  • solution electrical-conductivity
  • water-content probe
  • fine sand soils
  • field calibration
  • dielectric-constant
  • porous-media
  • moisture
  • anisotropy
  • diffusion


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