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Comparison of Lysimeter-Derived Crop Coefficients for Legacy and Modern Drought-Tolerant Maize Hybrids in the Texas High Plains

Gary W. Marek, Thomas H. Marek, Steven R. Evett, Jourdan M. Bell, Paul D. Colaizzi, David K. Brauer, Terry A. Howell
Transactions of the ASABE v.63 no.5 pp. 1243-1257
Zea mays, aquifers, corn, crop coefficient, cultivars, drought tolerance, drought tolerant plants, evapotranspiration, grain yield, groundwater, heat stress, hybrids, infiltration (hydrology), irrigated farming, irrigation scheduling, lysimeters, rhizosphere, runoff, semiarid zones, High Plains (United States), Texas
HighlightsDaily maximum crop coefficient (Kc) values were similar for legacy hybrids and a modern drought-tolerant (DT) hybrid.Later planting dates for a DT hybrid resulted in average season lengths ~25 days shorter than those of legacy hybrids.Results illustrated the effects of environment, planting date, interannual variation in temperature, and the importance of climate-specific Kc functions.DT hybrids may be more effective at reproductive growth during periods of heat stress in semi-arid environments, although additional data are needed to support this conclusion.Abstract. Corn (Zea mays L.) is a major irrigated crop grown in the Southern High Plains including the Texas Panhandle. Irrigation from the Ogallala Aquifer is required to sustain profitable corn production in the region by supplementing inadequate and erratic rainfall. Effective irrigation scheduling works to extend limited groundwater resources by avoiding water losses associated with runoff and/or percolation below the root zone. The use of crop coefficient (Kc) and reference evapotranspiration (ETo) values to estimate daily crop water use (ETc) remains an effective scheduling tool that can complement other irrigation scheduling approaches. Both Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO-56) piecewise and curvilinear Kc values for corn are found in the literature. However, advances in corn genetics have led to questions about the applicability of Kc values developed using legacy corn hybrids to irrigation of modern drought-tolerant (DT) hybrids. Lysimeter-derived Kc values for legacy corn hybrids grown in large weighing lysimeter fields at the USDA-ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory at Bushland, Texas, were compared with those derived from a modern DT corn hybrid recently grown in the same fields. Results indicated that although midseason daily Kc values were similar for all hybrids, average season length was ~25 days shorter for the modern DT hybrid, characterized by a shortened initial growth period followed by more rapid increase of Kc during the development period. However, plots of Kc over thermal time illustrated that the differences in season length were likely attributable to later planting dates associated with the DT corn hybrids. Average seasonal water use was 730 and 811 mm for the legacy and modern DT hybrids, respectively (three years each), with corresponding average yields of 1.2 and 1.4 kg ha-1. Results suggest that published Kc and Kcb values developed with legacy corn hybrids remain largely applicable to modern DT corn hybrids when used with accurate estimates of effective canopy-based growth stages and climate-specific Kc functions. Keywords: Crop coefficients, Drought-tolerant, Evapotranspiration, Maize, Weighing lysimeters.