In California, water is a perennial concern. As competition for water resources increases due to growth in population, California’s tree nut farmers are committed to improving the efficiency of water used for food production. There is an imminent need to have reliable methods
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In California, water is a perennial concern. As competition for water resources increases due to growth in population, California’s tree nut farmers are committed to improving the efficiency of water used for food production. There is an imminent need to have reliable methods that provide information about the temporal and spatial variability of crop water requirements, which allow farmers to make irrigation decisions at field scale. This study focuses on estimating the actual evapotranspiration and crop coefficients of an almond and pistachio orchard located in Central Valley (California) during an entire growing season by combining a simple crop evapotranspiration model with remote sensing data. A dataset of the vegetation index NDVI derived from Landsat-8 was used to facilitate the estimation of the basal crop coefficient (Kcb
), or potential crop water use. The soil water evaporation coefficient (Ke
) was measured from microlysimeters. The water stress coefficient (Ks
) was derived from airborne remotely sensed canopy thermal-based methods, using seasonal regressions between the crop water stress index (CWSI) and stem water potential (Ψstem
). These regressions were statistically-significant for both crops, indicating clear seasonal differences in pistachios, but not in almonds. In almonds, the estimated maximum Kcb
values ranged between 1.05 to 0.90, while for pistachios, it ranged between 0.89 to 0.80. The model indicated a difference of 97 mm in transpiration over the season between both crops. Soil evaporation accounted for an average of 16% and 13% of the total actual evapotranspiration for almonds and pistachios, respectively. Verification of the model-based daily crop evapotranspiration estimates was done using eddy-covariance and surface renewal data collected in the same orchards, yielding an R2
≥ 0.7 and average root mean square errors (RMSE) of 0.74 and 0.91 mm·day−1
for almond and pistachio, respectively. It is concluded that the combination of crop evapotranspiration models with remotely-sensed data is helpful for upscaling irrigation information from plant to field scale and thus may be used by farmers for making day-to-day irrigation management decisions.