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  • Author or Editor: Forrest Melton x
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Estimation of crop evapotranspiration supports efficient irrigation water management, which in turn supports water conservation, mitigation of groundwater depletion/degradation, energy savings, and crop quality maintenance. Past research in California has revealed strong relationships between fraction of the ground covered by photosynthetically active vegetation (Fc), crop coefficients (Kc), and evapotranspiration (ET) of cool-season vegetables and other specialty crops. Replicated irrigation trials for iceberg lettuce and broccoli were performed during 2012 and 2013 at the USDA Agricultural Research Station in Salinas, CA. The main objective was to compare crop yield and quality from ET-based irrigation scheduling with industry standard practice. Sprinkler irrigation was used to germinate and establish the crops, followed by surface drip irrigation during the treatment period. Each experiment compared three irrigation treatment schedules replicated five times in a randomized block design. Two decision-support models were evaluated as follows: 1) an FAO-56-based algorithm embedded in NASA’s prototype Satellite Information Management System (SIMS) based on observed Fc, and 2) CropManage (CM), an online database-driven irrigation scheduling tool based on modeled Fc. Both methods used daily reference ETo data from the California Irrigation Management Irrigation System (CIMIS) to translate Kc to crop ET, with a target of 100% replacement of water use during the drip irrigation phase. A third treatment followed an irrigation schedule representing grower standard practice (SP) at 150% to 175% ET replacement during the drip irrigation phase. No significant treatment differences were seen in lettuce head weight or total biomass. Marketable yields of lettuce (near 45.4 Mg·ha−1) and broccoli (near 17.4 Mg·ha−1) were in-line with industry averages during both years and all treatments. During 2012, CM yield was below lettuce SP, and above broccoli SP, while in 2013 no treatment differences were detected for either crop. No significant differences were detected between SIMS and SP yields during any trial.

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