Laboratory and field assessment of the capacitance sensors Decagon 10HS and 5TE for estimating the water content of irrigated soils
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Capacitance sensors such as Decagon 10HS and 5TE are increasingly used for soil water content (theta) estimation. However, their reliability and limitations in clayey soils irrigated with saline waters have not been completely characterized under field conditions. Four levels of soil water content were combined with six levels of soil salinity in twenty-four pots to assess the performance of both sensors in a wide range of soil salinities. A simplified power-law dielectric mixing model was calibrated in the laboratory to estimate the theta of a clay loam soil from the measurements of apparent dielectric permittivity (epsilon(b)) performed with both sensors. The calibrated equation was subsequently validated for the estimation of theta at two depths in six irrigated salt-threatened soils with clayey textures in SE Spain. The 10HS sensor provides higher estimations of epsilon(b) than the 5TE. Besides, the 5TE sensor was more sensitive to soil salinity. Consequently, a different calibration was carried out for each sensor. When all the soil salinity treatments were included in the calibrations, the results were poor. However, for soil apparent electrical conductivities below 1.7 dS m(-1) the 5TE sensor could be calibrated with low prediction errors, and with the calibration parameters b(0) and b(1) very close to their characteristic values in clayey and mineral soils. In field testing, the 5TE sensors calibrated with the obtained equation provided average correct estimations with an error of +/- 0.05 m(3) m(-3). On the contrary, the 10HS sensor overestimated the soil water content by 0.07 m(3) m(-3) on average. The proposed simple calibration equation for the 5TE sensor can be reliably used under field conditions to estimate theta of irrigated clayey soils up to an apparent electrical conductivity of 1.7 dS m(-1). (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.