Combining Evapotranspiration and Soil Apparent Electrical Conductivity Mapping to Identify Potential Precision Irrigation Benefits


Precision irrigation optimizes the spatiotemporal application of water using evapotranspiration (ET) maps to assess water stress or soil apparent electrical conductivity (ECa) maps as a proxy for plant available water content. However, ET and ECa maps are rarely used together. We developed high-resolution ET and ECa maps for six irrigated fields in the Midwest United States between 2014-2016. Our research goals were to (1) validate ET maps developed using the High-Resolution Mapping of EvapoTranspiration (HRMET) model and aerial imagery via comparison with ground observations in potato, sweet corn, and pea agroecosystems; (2) characterize relationships between ET and ECa; and (3) identify potential precision irrigation benefits across rotations. We demonstrated the synergy of combined ET and ECa mapping for evaluating whether intrafield differences in ECa correspond to actual water use for different crop rotations. We found that ET and ECa have stronger relationships in sweet corn and potato rotations than field corn. Thus, sweet corn and potato crops may benefit more from precision irrigation than field corn, even when grown rotationally on the same field. We recommend that future research consider crop rotation, intrafield soil variability, and existing irrigation practices together when determining potential water use, savings, and yield gains from precision irrigation.

Remote Sensing
Sam Zipper
HEAL PI; Assistant Scientist/Professor

I specialize in ecohydrology and hydrogeology of agricultural and urban landscapes.