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Open AccessArticle

New Approach to Improve the Soil Water Balance Method for Evapotranspiration Estimation

Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58102, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(12), 2478;
Received: 25 October 2019 / Revised: 16 November 2019 / Accepted: 20 November 2019 / Published: 24 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Hydrology and Hydrogeology)
As an important component of the water budget, quantifying actual crop evapotranspiration (ET) will enable better planning, management, and allocation of the water resources. However, accurate ET measurement has always been a challenging task in agricultural water management. In the upper Midwest, where subsurface drainage is a common practice due to the shallow ground water depth and heavy clayey soil, ET measurement using traditional ground-based methods is more difficult. In this study, ET was measured using the eddy covariance (EC), Bowen ratio-energy balance (BREB), and soil water balance (SWB) methods during the 2018 corn growing season, and the results of the three methods were compared. To close the energy balance for the EC system, the residual method was used. For the SWB method, capillary rise was included in the ET estimation and was calculated using the measured soil water potential. The change of soil water content for ET estimation using the SWB method was calculated in four different ways, including daily average, 24:00–2:00 average, 24:00–4:00 average, and 4:00 measurement. Through the growing season, six observation periods (OPs) with no rainfall or minimal rainfall events were selected for comparisons among the three methods. The estimated latent heat flux (LE) by the EC system using the residual method showed a 29% overestimation compared to LE determined by the BREB system for the entire growing season. After excluding data taken in May and October, LE determined by the EC system was only 10% higher, indicating that the main difference between the two systems occurred during the early and late of the growing season. By considering all six OPs, a 6%–22% LE difference between the EC and the BREB systems was observed. Except during the early growing and late harvest seasons, both systems agreed well in LE estimation. The SWB method using the average soil water contents between 24:00 and 2:00 time period to calculate the daily capillary rise produced the best statistical fit when compared to the ET estimated by the BREB, with a root-mean-square error of 1.15. Therefore, measuring ET using the capillary rise from a shallow water table between 24:00 and 2:00 could improve the performance of the SWB methodology for ET measurement. View Full-Text
Keywords: evapotranspiration; eddy covariance; Bowen ratio; soil water balance; capillary rise evapotranspiration; eddy covariance; Bowen ratio; soil water balance; capillary rise
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Rashid Niaghi, A.; Jia, X. New Approach to Improve the Soil Water Balance Method for Evapotranspiration Estimation. Water 2019, 11, 2478.

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