Wheat irrigation management using multispectral crop coefficients: II. Irrigation scheduling performance, grain yield, and water use efficiency

Douglas J. Hunsaker, Glenn J. Fitzgerald, Andrew N. French, Thomas R. Clarke, Michael J. Ottman, Paul J. Pinter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Current irrigation scheduling is based on well-established crop coefficient and reference evapotranspiration procedures to estimate daily crop evapotranspiration (ET c). Effective irrigation scheduling and efficient irrigation water use can occur when ET c is calculated with crop coefficients representative of actual crop water use conditions. The objective of this research was to evaluate irrigation scheduling using two approaches to estimate the basal crop coefficient (K cb) during wheat experiments conducted in 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 at Maricopa, Arizona. Each K cb approach (main treatment) included six subtreatment combinations (three plant densities and two N managements) imposed to create spatial and temporal variations in water use among experimental plots. The first approach (NDVI treatment) estimated K cb separately for each plot based on normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) data obtained by frequent canopy reflectance measurements. The second approach (FAO treatment) estimated K cb, uniformly for all plots based on a K cb, curve developed for standard wheat conditions. The K cb estimates were incorporated within the FAO-56 dual crop coefficient procedures to calculate daily ET c and root zone soil water depletion (D r). Plot irrigations were provided when the predicted D r reached 45% of the available soil water. During both wheat experiments, considerable variations in measured soil water depletion were observed for subtreatments due to differences in crop water use rates. For the FAO treatment, mean absolute percent difference (MAPD) for predicted D r was 27% and 40% for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005, respectively. Prediction of D r was improved significantly for NDVI for both experiments where treatment MAPD was 17% (2003-2004) and 18% (2004-2005). Although mean irrigation application efficiency for NDVI (89%) and FAO (88%) was similar for 2003-2004, it was significantly higher for NDVI (86%) than FAO (77%) for 2004-2005.Differences for irrigation scheduling resulted in significantly lower seasonal irrigation water use for the NDVI than FAO treatment, 8% (2003-2004) and 13% (2004-2005), but did not result in appreciable treatment differences for seasonal ET c, final grain yield, and crop water use efficiency (yield per unit ET c). Consequently, a primary outcome for both experiments was significantly higher irrigation water use efficiency (yield per unit irrigation water) for NDVI than FAO. Incorporating Kd, estimates based on NDVI within existing crop coefficient algorithms provides an opportunity to improve wheat irrigation scheduling strategies for conserving irrigation water while maintaining grain yield potentials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2035-2050
Number of pages16
JournalTransactions of the ASABE
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2007


  • Crop canopy reflectance
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Irrigation water requirements
  • NDVI
  • Normalized difference vegetation index
  • Soil water balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Food Science
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science


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