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Assessing Effects of Salinity on the Performance of a Low-Cost Wireless Soil Water Sensor.

  • Author(s): Peddinti, Srinivasa Rao
  • Hopmans, Jan W
  • Abou Najm, Majdi
  • Kisekka, Isaya
  • et al.

Published Web Location

https://doi.org/10.3390/s20247041
Abstract

Low-cost, accurate soil water sensors combined with wireless communication in an internet of things (IoT) framework can be harnessed to enhance the benefits of precision irrigation. However, the accuracy of low-cost sensors (e.g., based on resistivity or capacitance) can be affected by many factors, including salinity, temperature, and soil structure. Recent developments in wireless sensor networks offer new possibilities for field-scale monitoring of soil water content (SWC) at high spatiotemporal scales, but to install many sensors in the network, the cost of the sensors must be low, and the mechanism of operation needs to be robust, simple, and consume low energy for the technology to be practically relevant. This study evaluated the performance of a resistivity-capacitance-based wireless sensor (Sensoterra BV, 1018LE Amsterdam, Netherlands) under different salinity levels, temperature, and soil types in a laboratory. The sensors were evaluated in glass beads, Oso Flaco sand, Columbia loam, and Yolo clay loam soils. A nonlinear relationship was exhibited between the sensor measured resistance (Ω) and volumetric soil water content (θ). The Ω-θ relationship differed by soil type and was affected by soil solution salinity. The sensor was extremely sensitive at higher water contents with high uncertainty, and insensitive at low soil water content accompanied by low uncertainty. The soil solution salinity effects on the Ω-θ relationship were found to be reduced from sand to sandy loam to clay loam. In clay soils, surface electrical conductivity (ECs) of soil particles had a more dominant effect on sensor performance compared to the effect of solution electrical conductivity (ECw). The effect of temperature on sensor performance was minimal, but sensor-to-sensor variability was substantial. The relationship between bulk electrical conductivity (ECb) and volumetric soil water content was also characterized in this study. The results of this study reveal that if the sensor is properly calibrated, this low-cost wireless soil water sensor has the potential of improving soil water monitoring for precision irrigation and other applications at high spatiotemporal scales, due to the ease of integration into IoT frameworks.

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