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Donald J. Garrot Jr., Michael W. Kilby, Delmar D. Fangmeier, Stephen H. Husman, and Andrew E. Ralowicz

The crop water stress index (CWSI), based on the relationship between the canopy temperature of a well-watered plant in full sunlight and the atmospheric water content, numerically quantifies water stress. A 4-year study was established to determine the long-term effect of water application levels on production, nut quality characteristics, and growth of pecans [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) C. Koch cv. Western Schley]. Highest yields were attained when trees were relatively nonstressed (CWSI ≤ 0.08). Trees subjected to moderate water stress before irrigation (CWSI ≥ 0.20) showed reduced yield, nut weight, and tree growth, although water-use efficiency increased. With water management practices resulting in maximum yield, nut size, and tree growth (CWSI ≤ 0.08), tree water use varied up to 44% in the same orchard, depending on crop load and yearly climatic variations.

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Alvan G. Gaus and George M. Greene II

Water stress in mature `Redhaven' / Lovell peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch] trees was imposed, during the 1988 growing season. Trickle irrigation was reduced from 100% to 25% of a calculated weekly evaporation amount on 22 June, 11 July, and 8 and 27 Aug. Trees were isolated from rainfall by tents under the canopy and from horizontal water movement between root systems on 4 sides to a depth of 0.5 m by a water-proof barrier. Canopy to air temperature differentials monitored throughout the growing season were developed into 3 stress indexes: crop water stress index (CWSI); cumulative crop water stress index (CCWSI); and postharvest cumulative crop water stress index (PCCWSI). CWSI values varied from 0 to 0.6, while both CCWSI and PCCWSI increased through late Sept. Mean PCCWSI of the 22 June 25% treatment increased at a greater rate than the other treatments. Significant linear regressions were found with some of the indexes and net photosynthesis or stomatal conductance; however, the r-square values were low. In general, no linear relationships were found between either CCWSI of PCCWSI and the Index of Injury for cold hardiness.

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Alexander X. Niemiera and Monika Goy

A study was conducted to determinethe feasibility of using crop water stress index (CWSI) to schedule irrigation of eight species of freeway landscape plants, Acacia redolens B.R. Maslin, Acacia salicina Lindl., Caesalpinia pulcherrima Sw., Cassia nemophila A. Cunn. ex Vogel, Cercidium floridum Benth., Eucalyptus microtheca F.J. Muell., Nerium oleander L., and Prosopis chilensis Mol. Nerium oleander and C. pulcherrima were suited to the use of the CWSI, tolerated repeated exposures to CWSI values of 0.6, and remained aesthetically acceptable. Irrigation of N. oleander via the CWSI resulted in a 19% reduction in water use, compared to the conventional method. CWSI data of other species were too variable, and, thus, irrigation could not be scheduled by CWSI values. Variability was attributed, in part, to lack of a dense canopy, which is necessary to fill the view of the infrared thermometer.

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Maria Victoria Cremona, Hartmut Stützel, and Henning Kage

Two-year field experiments were carried out to evaluate the suitability of crop water stress index (CWSI) as a basis for irrigation scheduling of kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea L. var. gongylodes) by comparison with irrigation scheduling based on total soil water content (SWC). In the first year, irrigation scheduling when CWSI exceeded 0.3 resulted in more frequent water applications, but the total amount of irrigation water given was lower compared to irrigation when SWC fell below 70%. Kohlrabi tuber fresh weight at harvest was similar in both scheduling treatments, leading to 25% higher irrigation water use efficiency in the CWSI-scheduled plots. In the second year, three threshold levels, i.e., 0.2 and 80%, 0.4 and 60%, and 0.6 and 40% of CWSI and SWC, respectively, were investigated. At the level of highest water supply (CWSI = 0.2 and SWC = 80%), the total amount of water supplied was less in the CWSI but the number of irrigations was higher than in the SWC plots. The CWSI-based approach may be a method for irrigation scheduling of vegetables under temperate conditions. The higher irrigation frequency required would make this method particularly suitable in combination with irrigation system that allow frequent applications, i.e., in drip irrigation. To improve the method, a coupling with a soil water balance model seems promising.

Open access

William S. Braunworth Jr. and Harry J. Mack


The crop water stress index (CWSI) may be useful for optimal irrigation timing. This preliminary study evaluates the relationships between the CWSI and evapotranspiration (ET) and yield. The CWSI was also characterized on an hourly basis. Once-daily CWSI measurements after full ground cover was established and hourly CWSI measurements on 4 days were made in sweet corn (Zea mays L. ‘Jubilee’) irrigation experiments in 1984 and 1985. The gradient of water applied included five irrigation levels established from 0% to 100%, with the 100% level intended to refill the root zone to field capacity, after 50% depletion of available water, at each irrigation. CWSI values, obtained hourly throughout the day, were highest between 1000 and 1700 hr. CWSI values tended to be higher in the less-irrigated plots (40% and less) than in those that received greater amounts of water (57% to 100% treatment levels). Seasonal average CWSI values (midday measurements) were closely related to the seasonal ET deficit (r 2 ranged from 0.45 to 0.96), but there was not the expected 1:1 relationship of CWSI and ET deficit. The yield deficit of good, husked ears was also closely related to CWSI (r 2 ranged from 0.82 to 0.93), but differences in these relationships between years and experiments indicate that CWSI measurements must be improved.

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Thomas R. Clarke

Irrigation scheduling can be improved by directly monitoring plant water status rather than depending solely on soil water content measurements or modeled evapotranspiration estimates. Plants receiving sufficient water through their roots have cooler leaves than those that are water stressed, leading to the development of the crop water stress index, which uses hand-held infrared thermometers as tools for scheduling irrigations. However, substantial error can occur in partial canopies when a downward-pointing infrared thermometer measures leaf temperature and the temperature of exposed, hot soil. To overcome this weakness, red and near-infrared images were combined mathematically as a vegetation index, which was used to provide a crop-specific measure of vegetative cover. Coupling the vegetation index with the paired radiant surface temperature from a thermal image, a trapezoidal two-dimensional index was empirically derived capable of detecting water stress even with a low percentage of canopy cover. Images acquired with airborne sensors over subsurface drip-irrigated muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) fields demonstrated the method's ability to detect areas with clogged emitters, insufficient irrigation rate, and system water leaks. Although the procedure needs to be automated for faster image processing, the approach is an advance in irrigation scheduling and water stress detection technology.

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Suat Irmak, Dorota Z. Haman, Ayse Irmak, James W. Jones, Kenneth L. Campbell, and Thomas L. Crisman

Two colors (white and black) of a recently introduced irrigation-plant production system [multi-pot box system (MPBS)] for container-grown nurseries were researched and results were compared with those obtained from the sprinkler-irrigated conventional (control) system (CS). Experiments were carried out in summer and fall of 2001 in Gainesville, Fla. Plant growth [growth index (GI), growth rate (GR), and dry matter] and stress parameters [stomatal resistance (rs), crop water stress index (CWSI), plant water potential (PWP), and substrate temperature (ST)] were measured and analyzed for Viburnum odoratissimum (Ker-gawl). In both seasons, plants grown in the white MPBS had significantly higher GI and GR as compared to the plants in the black MPBS and CS. In summer, plants in the white MPBS reached marketable size about 17 days and 86 days earlier than those in the black MPBS and CS, respectively. In fall, they reached marketable size about 25 and 115 days earlier than those plants in the black MPBS and CS, respectively. Plants in the white and black MPBSs showed exponential growth rate in summer with plants in the white MPBS having significantly higher growth rate (greater slope) than the other two treatments. In both seasons, plants in the white MPBS produced the highest amount of dry matter. In general, plants in the white MPBS had lower rs values to vapor transport compared to the other two treatments, and the black MPBS treatment had lower rs values than the CS in both seasons. The CWSI values of the plants in both white and black MPBSs were significantly lower than the CS. In both seasons, ST in the black MPBS and CS exceeded the critical value of 40 °C several times. The ST of >40 °C is often reported to significantly reduce the plant growth and cause root death and/or injury for container-grown plants. Overall, the white MPBS provided a better environment for root development and plant growth under these experimental conditions. Results strongly suggest that there is a potential opportunity of using MPBS for irrigation and production of nursery plants. These important findings suggest that, in practice, producing nursery plants in a shorter period of time by using white MPBS will result in significant savings of energy, water, chemicals, and other inputs and thereby reducing the costs and increasing profits.

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Ronald S. Thomas and Jack E. Staub

Abbreviations: CWSI, crop water stress index; OVR, overall fruit quality rating; P, photosynthesis; PFD, pillowy fruit disorder; RH, relative humidity; SMT, soil moisture tensions; SR, stomatal resistance; VPD, vapor pressure deficit. 1 Former

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Preston K. Andrews, David J. Chalmers, and Mapasaka Moremong

Abbreviations: A, alfalfa; CWSI, crop water stress index; CTV, canopy-temperature-variability; D, drainage; ET, evapotranspiration; FI, full irrigation; H, herbicide strip; I, irrigation, IR, infrared P, black plastic mulch; R n , net radiation; SDD

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Thomas R. Clarke and M. Susan Moran

Water application efficiency can be improved by directly monitoring plant water status rather than depending on soil moisture measurements or modeled ET estimates. Plants receiving sufficient water through their roots have cooler leaves than those that are water-stressed, leading to the development of the Crop Water Stress Index based on hand-held infrared thermometry. Substantial error can occur in partial canopies, however, as exposed hot soil contributes to deceptively warm temperature readings. Mathematically comparing red and near-infrared reflectances provides a measure of vegetative cover, and this information was combined with thermal radiance to give a two-dimensional index capable of detecting water stress even with a low percentage of canopy cover. Thermal, red, and near-infrared images acquired over subsurface drip-irrigated cantaloupe fields demonstrated the method's ability to detect areas with clogged emitters, insufficient irrigation rate, and system water leaks.