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Partitioning evapotranspiration of a drip-irrigated wheat crop: Inter-comparing eddy covariance-, sap flow-, lysimeter- and FAO-based methods

Rafi, Zoubair, Merlin, Olivier, Le Dantec, Valérie, Khabba, Saïd, Mordelet, Patrick, Er-Raki, Salah, Amazirh, Abdelhakim, Olivera-Guerra, Luis, Ait Hssaine, Bouchra, Simonneaux, Vincent, Ezzahar, Jamal, Ferrer, Francesc
Agricultural and forest meteorology 2019 v.265 pp. 310-326
Food and Agriculture Organization, developmental stages, eddy covariance, evaporation, evapotranspiration, irrigation management, lysimetry, microirrigation, models, sap, sap flow, soil water, transpiration, uncertainty, water conservation, water stress, wheat
A precise estimate of the evapotranspiration (ET) partitioning is fundamental for determining the crop water needs and optimizing irrigation management. The plant transpiration (T) is generally considered to be the most desirable component, while reducing the soil evaporation (E) could be one of the most important water-saving actions in semi-arid agricultural regions. Given the lack of reference method to estimate the E/T partitioning of wheat crop, this study inter-compares four different methods based on eddy covariance, sap flow and lysimetry measurements and FAO modeling. The objectives are: i) to quantify the systematic and random uncertainty in E and T observations, ii) to evaluate the partitioning ratio (T/ET) at the daily/field scale and iii) to assess the performance of the FAO model over two drip irrigated wheat fields. Results indicate that despite the small surface sensed by mini-lysimeters, the partitioning ratio is evaluated more precisely (19% relative error) with lysimetry than with the other systems (any combination of eddy covariance, lysimetry and sap flow measurements). Moreover, stem-scale T measurements from sap flow sensors are subject to representativeness issues at the field scale, and to systematic errors during water-stress and senescence periods. The lysimeter-derived partitioning ratio increases from about 0.50 to 0.85 during the growth stage and rapidly drops towards 0 during senescence. Its dynamics is found to be significantly correlated (R>0.7) with the 5-cm soil moisture. By comparing FAO simulations with observations, it is found that the FAO method overestimates T and underestimates E, while keeping satisfying ET estimates for drip irrigated wheat. This study suggests that different independent measurement techniques should be implemented to both quantify and reduce uncertainties in the T/ET ratio, and that accurate observations are still needed to improve the modeling of E/T components.