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Transpiration Dynamics in Co-Located Maize, Sorghum, and Soybean Closed Canopies and Their Environmental Controls  Open Access

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

Citation:  Journal of Natural Resources and Agricultural Ecosystems. 2(1): 1-15. (doi: 10.13031/jnrae.15771) @2024
Authors:   Meetpal S. Kukal, Suat Irmak
Keywords:   Hysteresis, Photosynthetically active radiation, Reference evapotranspiration, Sapflow, Vapor pressure deficit.


Hourly sap flow measured in co-located and identically managed maize, sorghum, and soybean closed canopies.

PAR, VPD, and ETr were strongly correlated to transpiration (T) normalized by LAI.

Negative response of T to high VPD (3-4 kPa) was observed for maize and sorghum.

Counterclockwise hysteresis observed for diurnal T-VPD and T-PAR.

MLR models were developed to estimate T using VPD and PAR.

Abstract. Transpiration (T) dominates terrestrial hydrological fluxes and is strongly coupled with vegetation productivity and water use efficiency across different biomes, including agricultural systems. Studying how T in field crops responds to environmental variability has important implications to inform and predict agroecosystems‘ response to a changing environment. However, comparative T rates among major field crops remain unknown in many regions where drought severity and limited freshwater availability are projected, such as the Central U.S. Plains. We address this knowledge gap by monitoring and characterizing hourly T for field-grown maize, grain sorghum, and soybean crops under the same weather, soil, and management regimes using sap flow sensors. The relationships among crop-specific T and air temperature (Tair), relative humidity (RH), wind speed (u2), vapor pressure deficit (VPD), incoming shortwave radiation (Rs), photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), net radiation (Rn), and grass- and alfalfa-reference evapotranspiration (ETo, ETr) were investigated. T normalized by leaf area index (T LAI-1) was most correlated with PAR (r=0.88), ETr (r=0.84), and VPD (r=0.81). Mean sensitivity of T LAI-1 to unit change in Tair, Rs, PAR, Rn, u2, RH, VPD, and ETr for maize and sorghum was 88% and 59% greater than that of soybean, respectively. All crops showed non-linear T LAI-1 response to increasing VPD, and a negative response of T LAI-1 to VPD was observed in the 3.0-4.0 kPa VPD range for maize and sorghum. Each crop demonstrated a counterclockwise hysteresis effect to diurnal T-VPD and T-PAR, which was 177% and 87% greater (for T-VPD) and 44% and 17% greater (for T-PAR) in maize and sorghum, respectively, than soybean. Transpiration has rarely been measured in row crops, especially in a comparative fashion, and thus, the concurrent T dynamics and their environmental controls characterized in this research are of critical importance. These data can be instrumental for quantitatively assessing change in true crop water use (transpiration) and thus crop suitability under projected environmental change.

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