Determination of Crop Coefficients (Kc) and Water Use of Spinach and Onion

in HortScience

Lysimeters are used to measure real-time water use during the growing season. By relating the water use of a specific crop to a well-watered reference crop, such as alfalfa or grass, crop coefficients (Kc) can be developed to assist in predicting accurate crop needs using available meteorological data. Reference evapotranspiration can be obtained from several weather networks; however, without crop coefficients for specific crops, this information is only useful for grass. Three weighing lysimeters, consisting of undisturbed 1.5 m × 2.0 m area by 2.2-m depth cores of soil, comprise the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center–Uvalde lysimeter facility. Two lysimeters, weighing around 15,000 kg, have been placed beneath a linear LEPA irrigation system and used in field production. A third lysimeter measures reference ET values (ETo) and is located in a grassed area near the field lysimeters irrigated by subsurface drip irrigation system. Spinach was grown in one of the two crop lysimeters while onion was grown in the second lysimeter. Daily water use was measured on 5-min intervals. Results show the possibility of saving ≈61 to 74 million m3 of water per year in the irrigated farms of the Edwards aquifer region if proper irrigation management techniques are implemented in conjunction with the newly developed crop coefficients. Crop water requirements, Kc determination, and comparison to existing FAO Kc values will be discussed.

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