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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 54 No. 1, p. 1-6
    Received: June 23, 1989

    * Corresponding author(s):
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System for Automating and Multiplexing Soil Moisture Measurement by Time-Domain Reflectometry

  1. J. M. Baker  and
  2. R. R. Allmaras
  1. USDA-ARS Soil and Water Management Unit, St. Paul, MN 55108 and Dep. of Soil Science, Univ. of Minnesota



It is often necessary to measure soil water content at multiple points in space and time. Our goal was to develop an automated and multiplexed measurement system using time-domain reflectometry (TDR). Two systems are described; the first (A) uses an analog TDR unit, in which voltage signals sent from the TDR to a datalogger convey the shape of the waveform. The second (D) uses a digital TDR that communicates a digital representation of the oscilloscope wave to a personal computer. Both systems use the same multiplexing strategy, in which the TDR transmission line connects through a 12-position rotary switch to various waveguides positioned in the soil and to further rotary switches. The switches are turned by stepping solenoids that are activated by the datalogger in System A and the computer in System D. System D uses software to automatically analyze the incoming waveforms and calculate volumetric water content. Some of the possible uses of each system include observation of infiltration at multiple points within a field and measurement of unfrozen water content as a function of space and time during freezing and thawing. The system has also been used to estimate the reproducibility of water content measurement by TDR, which was found to be in the range of ±0.006 to ±0.008. The systems described should be useful for field research on many subjects, including studies of transport and biological processes in soil, and validation of root water-uptake models.

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