Info Sheets

Selecting a Soil Moisture Sensor


Measuring soil moisture has become increasingly popular as a way to manage irrigation and crop health. There is a wide range of technology available to do this for a wide range of budgets, however, the selection can become confusing for users. This Info Sheet has been prepared to help you work out what the best technology is for your application and budget.

Things to think about

  1. Your budget - also think about the power and consent costs of irrigating too much (common) or too little (rare)
  2. Discrete or continuous measurement - do you want to take manual spot checks, or do you want a continuous data set that you can analyse on your computer?
  3. Number of locations - do you need to measure at a number of different locations? (remembering that soil conditions can be highly variable on a single property)
  4. Ease of use - who will be using the information or maintaining the gear?
  5. Permanence - how long does the gear need to last?
  6. Expandability - do you also want to measure other parameters such as rainfall, climate or pump run times?
  7. Integration - how will you use the soil moisture data with your own knowledge and existing systems to make better decisions?


Model Description $ approx * Data Storage Comments Expandable
Low Cost, manual measurement      



Stand alone sensor with a dial readout of soil water potential  <$500  No Requires top up of water reservoir as required  No



Stand alone sensor with bright yellow dots to indicate soil water potential and time to irrigate. Gypsum block sensor.
 $500  No
Sensor life approx. 2 years, user replaceable  No
Research grade, portable measurement      

HydroSense II

(Campbell Scientific)

 Portable sensor with integral GPS for measurement of soil moisture content (%) and deficit (mm)  $1800 Discrete readings download to PC for mapping
 Models for 20cm or 12cm measurement depth  No
Datalogging systems      
HOBO micro station or U30 station Dataloggers with "plug-and-play" smart sensors including soil moisture content From $1000 Yes - manual download to PC or via Wi-fi or GSM Web accessible options. Additional weather and power use sensors available

Soil & Flow Monitoring System

(Campbell Scientific)

Research grade datalogger with TDR soil moisture content (%) and pump flow From $1900 Yes - manual download to PC or wireless Optional alarm output. Can be part of a wider wireless network. Soil conductivity, temperature and rainfall sensors available

Custom System

(Campbell Scientific)

Complete PET (evapotranspiration) and soil moisture weather station, stand alone or networked. Measure wind, temperature, RH, solar radiation, soil moisture, conductivity & temperature. From $5000 Yes - manual download to PC or wireless Optional alarm output. Can be part of a wider wireless network. Cell phone and/or web options. Wide range of weather, water and power sensors available.


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