To meet the demand of intelligent irrigation for accurate moisture sensing in the soil vertical profile, a soil profile moisture sensor was designed based on the principle of high-frequency capacitance. The sensor consists of five groups of sensing probes, a data processor, and
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To meet the demand of intelligent irrigation for accurate moisture sensing in the soil vertical profile, a soil profile moisture sensor was designed based on the principle of high-frequency capacitance. The sensor consists of five groups of sensing probes, a data processor, and some accessory components. Low-resistivity copper rings were used as components of the sensing probes. Composable simulation of the sensor’s sensing probes was carried out using a high-frequency structure simulator. According to the effective radiation range of electric field intensity, width and spacing of copper ring were set to 30 mm and 40 mm, respectively. A parallel resonance circuit of voltage-controlled oscillator and high-frequency inductance-capacitance (LC) was designed for signal frequency division and conditioning. A data processor was used to process moisture-related frequency signals for soil profile moisture sensing. The sensor was able to detect real-time soil moisture at the depths of 20, 30, and 50 cm and conduct online inversion of moisture in the soil layer between 0–100 cm. According to the calibration results, the degree of fitting (R2
) between the sensor’s measuring frequency and the volumetric moisture content of soil sample was 0.99 and the relative error of the sensor consistency test was 0–1.17%. Field tests in different loam soils showed that measured soil moisture from our sensor reproduced the observed soil moisture dynamic well, with an R2
of 0.96 and a root mean square error of 0.04. In a sensor accuracy test, the R2
between the measured value of the proposed sensor and that of the Diviner2000 portable soil moisture monitoring system was higher than 0.85, with a relative error smaller than 5%. The R2
between measured values and inversed soil moisture values for other soil layers were consistently higher than 0.8. According to calibration test and field test, this sensor, which features low cost, good operability, and high integration, is qualified for precise agricultural irrigation with stable performance and high accuracy.