Standard Article

Field Capacity

Ground Water Hydrology

  1. Joseph Skopp

Published Online: 15 APR 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.gw221

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Skopp, J. 2005. Field Capacity. Water Encyclopedia. 5:124–128.

Author Information

  1. University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2005


Storage of soil water is important to soil flora and fauna, to hydrologic processes, and to a variety of soil physical properties. One element of soil water storage is an upper limit on water that is available for plant use, referred to as “field capacity.” This entry provides a history of the concept, its relation to soil water holding properties, predictive techniques for field capacity, applications, and failures of the field capacity concept.

Early researchers of plant water relations quickly realized that in water limited regions, the ultimate crop yield depended not only on the amount of rainfall received but on what portion of that rainfall was usable. Three key factors could reduce the usefulness of rainfall: runoff, drainage below the root zone, and evaporation. The net effect of rainfall, runoff, and drainage results in retention of water in the root zone. Evaporation and transpiration reduce this retained water. This retention was studied by Veihmeyer and Hendrickson. The concepts developed by Veihmeyer and Hendrickson provide a means to evaluate whether a soil retains sufficient water to support a particular crop.


  • soil water retention;
  • available water capacity;
  • wilting point;
  • plant available water;
  • drainage;
  • transpiration;
  • plant water use;
  • 1/3 bar;
  • 1/10 bar