In-situ estimation of soil water retention curve in silt loam and loamy sand soils at different soil depths
The soil water retention curve (SWRC) shows the relationship between soil water (θ) and water potential (ψ) and provides fundamental information for quantifying and modeling soil water entry, storage, flow, and groundwater recharge processes. While traditionally it is measured in a laboratory through cumbersome and time-intensive methods, soil sensors measuring in-situ θ and ψ show strong potential to estimate in-situ SWRC. The objective of this study was to estimate in-situ SWRC at different depths under two different soil types by integrating measured θ and ψ using two commercial sensors: time-domain reflectometer (TDR) and dielectric field water potential (e.g., MPS-6) principles. Parametric models were used to quantify θ—ψ relationships at various depths and were compared to laboratory-measured SWRC. The results of the study show that combining TDR and MPS-6 sensors can be used to estimate plant-available water and SWRC, with a mean difference of −0.03 to 0.23 m3m−3 between the modeled data and laboratory data, which could be caused by the sensors’ lack of site-specific calibration or possible air entrapment of field soil. However, consistent trends (with magnitude differences) indicated the potential to use these sensors in estimating in-situ and dynamic SWRC at depths and provided a way forward in overcoming resource-intensive laboratory measurements.