Decagon MPS-6

– soil water potential sensor

Soil Water Potential SensorThe MPS-6 is a matrix water potential sensor that provides long term, maintenance-free soil water potential and temperature readings at any depth without sensitivity to salts. The range of the MPS-6 goes from field capacity to air dry. Lab and field tests indicate that it can make accurate measurements at water potentials at least as dry as permanent wilting point.


The MPS-6 features:
  • Supersedes redundant soil water potential sensors such as tensiometers and gyspum blocks.
  • Dramatically Improved Accuracy – Accuracy (±10% of the reading) comes from the MPS-6’s six point factory calibration. Compare with confidence to other MPS-6 sensors or to other measures of water potential.
  • Tough, Long-Lasting Body – Epoxy overmolding will withstand even difficult field conditions. Sensors are rated for long-term research studies.
  • No Recalibration – Other matrix potential sensors have a tendency to degrade over time. The MPS-6 uses a silica based ceramic material that doesn’t degrade and doesn’t need replacement or recalibration.
  • Insensitivity to Salts -The sensor is accurate in salty environments, a variety of soils, and even in locations where the salinity conditions change over time.
  • Affordability – Breakthrough calibration technique gives the MPS-6 the accuracy of an individually calibrated sensor at a price comparable to most uncalibrated sensors.
  • Excellent Range – The MPS-6 has sensitivity from -9 kPa all the way to air dry (-100,000 kPa), with accurate measruements to at least permanent wilting point.
  • Onboard Temperature Measurement – Temperature measurements let you evaluate another important growing condition without adding a sensor.
  • Plug and Play Capability – Just install the sensor, plug it into the Em50 series logger, set the clock and measurement intervals, and start logging data. No programming required.
  • Remote access to data – Use the MPS-6 with an Em50G data logger and access your data from your office, lab, classroom, or anywhere with an internet connection.
  • SDI-12 Compatible – The MPS-6 is compatible with nearly all major commercial data loggers through SDI-12, a universal communications protocol. More information at


Gypsum Block Sensorhow it works

MPS-6 sensors are composed of a moisture content sensor and a porous substrate with a known moisture release curve. After the porous material has equilibrated with the surrounding soil, the moisture sensor measures the water content of the porous material, and the sensor uses the moisture release curve to translate moisture content into water potential.


range vs. accuracy

A sensor’s range depends on the variation in pore sizes in the porous substrate; the wider the range of pore sizes, the bigger the measurement range. Commercially available ceramics are designed to have a uniform pore size, which limits their range. The MPS-6 uses a ceramic specifically designed with a wide pore size distribution for wider measurement range.

However, a sensor’s accuracy depends on how well the moisture release curve characterizes the porous substrate in that particular sensor. The more consistent the substrate is from sensor to sensor, the more accurate each sensor will be. Widely varied pore sizes lead to inconsistency from sensor to sensor, putting these two critical sensor goals in conflict.


Em50 Data Loggercalibration solution

This conflict can be resolved by individually calibrating each sensor. This has always been a time-consuming and expensive process, however.

The MPS-6’s accuracy comes from breakthrough calibration methods that allow sensors to be individually calibrated using an automated calibration apparatus. These new techniques make the MPS-6 the first low cost matrix potential sensor with research-grade accuracy.


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feature specification
Measurement Principle Frequency domain with calibrated ceramic discs, thermistor
Measurement Range Soil Water Potential: -9 to -100,000 kPa Soil Temperature: -40° to 60°C
Resolution Soil Water Potential: 0.1 kPa Soil Temperature: 0.1°C
Accuracy Soil Water Potential: ±(10% + 2 kPa) from -9 to -100 kPa (see manual for additional accuracy specifications past -100 kPa) Soil Temperature: ± 1°C
Power Requirements 3.6 - 15 VDC, 0.03 mA quiescent, 10 mA max during 150 ms measurement
Output SDI-12
Cable Length 5 m (standard) | 75 m (maximum)
Sensor Dimenions 9.6 cm (l) x 3.5 cm (w) x 1.5 cm (d)



further reading