A TDR array probe for monitoring near-surface soil moisture distribution

Wenyi Sheng, Rong Zhou, Morteza Sadeghi, Ebrahim Babaeian, David A. Robinson, Markus Tuller, Scott B. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Near-surface soil conditions (i.e., moisture and temperature) moderate mass and energy exchange at the soil–atmosphere interface. While remote sensing offers an effective means for mapping near-surface moisture content across large areas, in situ measurements, targeting those specific remotely sensed soil depths, are poorly understood and high-resolution near-surface measurement capabilities are lacking. Time domain reflectometry (TDR) is a well-established, accurate measurement method for soil dielectric permittivity and moisture content. A TDR array was designed to provide centimeter-resolution measurements of near-surface soil moisture. The array consists of nine stainless steel TDR rods spaced 1 cm apart, acting as waveguide pairs to form eight two-rod TDR probes in series. A critical aspect of the design was matching the spacing of the coaxial cable–TDR rod transition to avoid unwanted reflections in the waveforms. The accuracy of the TDR array permittivity measurement (±1 permittivity unit) was similar to that of conventional TDR as verified in dielectric liquids. Electric field numerical simulations showed minimal influence of adjacent rods during a given rod-pair measurement. The evaporation rate determined by the TDR array compared well with mass balance data in a laboratory test. Near-surface soil moisture profile dynamics were monitored at centimeter-depth resolution using the TDR array in a field experiment where volumetric moisture content estimates (0–8 cm) were within 2% of conventional three-rod TDR probes averaging across 0 to 8 cm and from 1- to 3-cm depths.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalVadose Zone Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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