Copyright 2020 the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. The article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
The measurement of soil moisture in agriculture is currently dominated by a small number of sensors, the use of which is greatly limited by their small sampling volume, high cost, need for close soil–sensor contact, and poor performance in saline, vertic and stony soils. This review was undertaken to explore the plethora of novel and emerging soil moisture sensors, and evaluate their potential use in agriculture. The review found that improvements to existing techniques over the last two decades are limited, and largely restricted to frequency domain reflectometry approaches. However, a broad range of new, novel and emerging means of measuring soil moisture were identified including, actively heated fiber optics (AHFO), high capacity tensiometers, paired acoustic / radio / seismic transceiver approaches, microwave-based approaches, radio frequency identification (RFID), hydrogels and seismoelectric approaches. Excitement over this range of potential new technologies is however tempered by the observation that most of these technologies are at early stages of development, and that few of these techniques have been adequately evaluated in situ agricultural soils.