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Spatial Estimation of Crop Evapotranspiration, Soil Properties, and Infiltrated Water for Scheduling Cotton Surface Irrigations

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  5th National Decennial Irrigation Conference Proceedings, 5-8 December 2010, Phoenix Convention Center, Phoenix, Arizona USA  IRR10-8655.(doi:10.13031/2013.35873)
Authors:   Douglas J Hunsaker, Andrew W French, Eduardo M Bautista, Kelly R Thorp, Peter M Waller, Patrick D Royer, Pedro Andrade-Sanchez, John Heun
Keywords:   Vegetation index, remote sensing, irrigation scheduling, precision agriculture, apparent soil electrical conductivity

Estimates of spatially distributed crop evapotranspiration (ETc) over large fields could be particularly valuable for aiding irrigation management decisions in arid regions where surface irrigation systems are predominant. The objectives are to evaluate an irrigation scheduling approach that combines remote sensing inputs with field data to provide fine-scale, spatial monitoring of crop water use and soil water status within surface-irrigated fields. Remote sensing observations of vegetation index were used to spatially estimate basal crop coefficients within 4-m x 8-m zones within borders of a 4.9-ha cotton field. These data were used to compute ETc within zones using FAO-56 procedures. Spatial inputs of soil properties were estimated from a ground-based apparent soil electrical conductivity survey. Spatial distribution of infiltrated water along the furrow was estimated using hydraulic field measurements and irrigation simulation software. An existing daily time-step, soil water balance computer program was modified to incorporate the spatial information and provide simultaneous monitoring of crop and soil conditions in zones. Irrigation scheduling using the spatial monitoring approach compared favorably in yield to traditional cotton irrigation scheduling used in the area, but reduced water use by 7 to 9%, whereas it attained as much as 19% higher yield compared to scheduling based on assuming a uniform crop coefficient for all zones. Managing water for large surface-irrigated fields aided by decision support tools and approaches that allow spatial monitoring of crop water use and soil conditions could improve precision and timing of irrigation water scheduling.

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