Soil moisture monitoring at the field scale using neutron probe

Jayantha Kumarasiri Kodikara, Pathmanathan Rajeev, Derek Chun Chuen Chan, Chaminda Pathma Kumara Gallage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Measurement of the moisture variation in soils is required for geotechnical design and research because soil properties and behavior can vary as moisture content changes. The neutron probe, which was developed more than 40 years ago, is commonly used to monitor soil moisture variation in the field. This study reports a full-scale field monitoring of soil moisture using a neutron moisture probe for a period of more than 2 years in the Melbourne (Australia) region. On the basis of soil types available in the Melbourne region, 23 sites were chosen for moisture monitoring down to a depth of 1500 mm. The field calibration method was used to develop correlations relating the volumetric moisture content and neutron counts. Observed results showed that the deepest wetting front during the wet season was limited to the top 800 to 1000 mm of soil whilst the top soil layer down to about 550 mm responded almost immediately to the rainfall events. At greater depths (550 to 800 mm and below 800 mm), the moisture variations were relatively low and displayed predominantly periodic fluctuations. This periodic nature was captured with Fourier analysis to develop a cyclic moisture model on the basis of an analytical solution of a one-dimensional moisture flow equation for homogeneous soils. It is argued that the model developed can be used to predict the soil moisture variations as applicable to buried structures such as pipes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-345
Number of pages14
JournalCanadian Geotechnical Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Expansive soil
  • Field calibration
  • Fourier analysis
  • Moisture diffusivity
  • Neutron probe
  • Soil moisture content

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