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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Maricopa, Arizona » U.S. Arid Land Agricultural Research Center » Water Management and Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #192127


item Hunsaker, Douglas - Doug
item Pinter Jr, Paul
item Clarke, Thomas
item Fitzgerald, Glenn
item French, Andrew

Submitted to: Proceedings of the World Water and Environmental Resources Congress
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/15/2006
Publication Date: 5/25/2006
Citation: Hunsaker, D.J., Pinter Jr, P.J., Clarke, T.R., Fitzgerald, G.J., French, A.N. 2006. Performance of crop coefficients inferred from ndvi observations for estimating evapotranspiration and irrigation scheduling of wheat. Proceedings of the World Water and Environmental Resources Congress. CD-ROM unpagenated.

Interpretive Summary: Crop evapotranspiration, or ET, is water transpired by the crop plus the water evaporated from the soil surface. Accurate estimation of ET is needed to help growers decide when to irrigate their crops and how much water to apply. A method widely used by irrigation managers to estimate the crop ET during the growing season multiplies reference ET data, available from local weather station networks, by standard crop coefficients (Kc). Unfortunately, the crop ET calculated with the standard Kc information is often inaccurate, which can lead to reduced efficiency of irrigation water. Large errors in the calculated ET with this method can occur because actual Kc varies with the climate, the growth rate of the crop, and with crop management. This research tested a remote sensing technique with wheat aimed at continually correcting the Kc depending on how the crop actually developed during the season. Results indicate that the remote sensing technique provided more precise estimates of measured ET than the standard Kc, and saved irrigation water. Application of this technique should provide more accurate Kc and crop ET information, which would help growers determine optimal irrigation scheduling strategies. This research will be of interest to farm managers, irrigation consultants, government agencies, and the irrigation industry.

Technical Abstract: Time-based crop coefficients are often used to estimate daily crop evapotranspiration (ETc) for determining irrigation scheduling. Incorporating remote sensing observations to infer crop coefficients during the season could provide the spatial and temporal estimation of ETc that is needed for precise irrigation scheduling. Experiments conducted for two seasons with wheat investigated the use of reflectance-based and time-based basal crop coefficients (Kcb), integrated within the FAO-56 dual crop coefficient framework to compute the daily ETc for determining irrigation scheduling. The experiments consisted of two main treatments denoted as the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and the FAO treatments. Six, replicated sub-treatments, equally embedded within the two main treatments, included three plant densities (typical, dense, and sparse) and two nitrogen levels (high and low). NDVI data obtained from frequent ground-based canopy reflectance measurements were used to calculate the Kcb for each NDVI plot via a previously defined relationship that describes Kcb as a function of scaled NDVI. A single time-based Kcb curve, developed locally for standard crop conditions, was used to estimate the daily Kcb for the FAO treatment plots. Predicted Kcb compared favorably with derived Kcb determined from field measurements for both the NDVI and FAO methods for standard conditions (typical density and high N) during the first season. However, the time-based FAO Kcb curve failed to adequately describe derived Kcb for any sub-treatment condition during the second season when crop development was atypical due to a late crop emergence date, delayed nitrogen applications, and a shorter growing season. Because the NDVI Kcb closely tracked derived Kcb for all sub-treatments, ETc prediction for NDVI was superior to FAO, particularly during the second season. In either season, the differences between the NDVI and FAO treatments for grain yield and water use efficiency (yield/ETc) were not statistically significant. However, compared to the standard FAO Kcb curve, the NDVI-Kcb method resulted in a significant decrease in the irrigation water used.