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  • Author or Editor: J.E. Ayars x
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Large, precision weighing lysimeters are expensive but invaluable tools for measuring crop evapotranspiration and developing crop coefficients. Crop coefficients are used by both growers and researchers to estimate crop water use and accurately schedule irrigations. Two lysimeters of this type were installed in 2002 in central California to determine daily rates of crop and potential (grass) evapotranspiration and develop crop coefficients for better irrigation management of vegetable crops. From 2002 to 2006, the crop lysimeter was planted with broccoli, iceberg lettuce, bell pepper, and garlic. Basal crop coefficients, K cb, defined as the ratio of crop to potential evapotranspiration when the soil surface is dry but transpiration in unlimited by soil water conditions, increased as a linear or quadratic function of the percentage of ground covered by vegetation. At midseason, when groundcover was greater than 70% to 90%, K cb was ≈1.0 in broccoli, 0.95 in lettuce, and 1.1 in pepper, and K cb of each remained the same until harvest. Garlic K cb, in comparison, increased to 1.0 by the time the crop reached 80% ground cover, but with only 7% of additional coverage, K cb continued to increase to 1.3, until irrigation was stopped to dry the crop for harvest. Three weeks after irrigation was cutoff, garlic K cb declined rapidly to a value of 0.16 by harvest. Yields of each crop equaled or exceeded commercial averages for California with much less water in some cases than typically applied. The new crop coefficients will facilitate irrigation scheduling in the crops and help to achieve full yield potential without overirrigation.

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A 3-year study was conducted in central California to compare the effects of furrow, microjet, surface drip, and sub surface drip irrigation on vegetative growth and early production of newly planted `Crimson Lady' peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] trees. Furrow treatments were irrigated every 7, 14, or 21 days; microjet treatments were irrigated every 2-3, 7, or 14 days; and surface and subsurface drip (with one, two, or three buried laterals per row) treatments were irrigated when accumulated crop evapotranspiration reached 2.5 mm. The overall performance showed that trees irrigated by surface and subsurface drip were significantly larger, produced higher yields, and had higher water use efficiency than trees irrigated by microjets. In fact, more than twice as much water had to be applied to trees with microjets than to trees with drip systems in order to achieve the same amount of vegetative growth and yield. Yield and water use efficiency were also higher under surface and subsurface drip irrigation than under furrow irrigation, although tree size was similar among the treatments. Little difference was found between trees irrigated by surface and subsurface drip, except that trees irrigated with only one subsurface drip lateral were less vigorous, but not less productive, than trees irrigated by one surface drip lateral, or by two or three subsurface drip laterals. Within furrow and microjet treatments, irrigation frequency had little effect on tree development and performance with the exception that furrow irrigation every 3 weeks produced smaller trees than furrow irrigation every 1 or 2 weeks.

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