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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 74 No. 2, p. 593-601
    Received: Apr 24, 2009

    * Corresponding author(s): miguel.quemada@upm.es


Laboratory versus Field Calibration of Capacitance Probes

  1. José Luis Gabriel,
  2. Jon I. Lizaso and
  3. Miguel Quemada *
  1. Dep. Producción Vegetal, Univ. Politécnica de Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria, 28040 Madrid, Spain


Capacitance probes (CP) based on responses to electromagnetic properties in soil are widely used for monitoring soil volumetric water content (θv), but proper calibration is necessary to obtain reliable results. The objectives of this study were to: (i) compare errors in evaluating θv when using soil-specific equations as opposed to the manufacturer's default equation; (ii) compare the CP calibration equations obtained in the laboratory and in the field; and (iii) evaluate the accuracy of CP under field conditions using soil-specific equations as opposed to the manufacturer's default equation. Laboratory and field calibrations were conducted by fitting statistical relationships between readings from CP and θv measured from soil cores. The accuracies of the obtained calibration equations were evaluated under field conditions during two irrigation cycles. In both calibration studies, the manufacturer's default equation consistently overcalculated θv (RMSE > 0.044 m3 m−3), whereas custom CP calibration equations provided accurate θv determinations (RMSE < 0.028 m3 m−3). Even when θv was overestimated, the manufacturer's default equation was able to reproduce θv dynamics during irrigation. Therefore, if users are interested in relative differences in θv, they may use the manufacturer's default equation. If absolute values are needed, however, soil-specific calibration is required. The accuracy of CP in monitoring θv under field conditions was slightly better using the laboratory calibration equation (RMSE = 0.019 m3 m−3) rather than the field calibration equation (RMSE = 0.023 m3 m−3). The use of a laboratory calibration is recommended given that it is easily reproducible, facilitates work planning, and minimizes uncertainties.

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