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Effect of temporal variability in soil hydraulic properties on simulated water transfer under high-frequency drip irrigation

Mubarak, Ibrahim, Mailhol, Jean Claude, Angulo-Jaramillo, Rafael, Bouarfa, Sami, Ruelle, Pierre
Agricultural water management 2009 v.96 no.11 pp. 1547-1559
temporal variation, soil water storage, evapotranspiration, root systems, soil water content, plant available water, microirrigation, crops, loam soils, irrigation scheduling, water uptake, accuracy, hydrologic models, prediction
The effect of changes in the hydraulic properties of a loamy topsoil on water transfer under daily drip irrigation was studied over a cropping cycle. Soil water contents were measured continuously with neutron probes and capacitance sensors placed in access tubes (EnviroSMART) and were compared to predications made by the Hydrus-2D model. Three different sets of hydraulic parameters measured before and after irrigation started, were used. Our results demonstrated that, based on the assumptions used in this study, the accuracy of the Hydrus predictions is good. Graphical and statistical comparisons of simulated and measured soil water contents and consequently the total water storage revealed a similar trend throughout the monitoring period for the all three different sets of parameters. The soil hydraulic properties determined after irrigation started were found to be much more representative of the majority of the irrigation season, as confirmed by the accuracy of the simulation results with high values of the index of agreement and with values of RMSE similar in magnitude to the error associated with field measurements (0.020cm³ cm⁻³). The highest RMSE values (about 0.04cm³ cm⁻³) were found when the model used input soil parameters measured before irrigation started. Generally, changes in topsoil hydraulic properties over time had no significant effect on soil moisture distribution in our agro-pedo-climatic context. One possible explanation is that daily water application was conducted at the same time as maximal root water uptake. This meant the soil did not need to store total daily crop water requirements and consequently that the water redistribution phase represented a very short stage in the irrigation cycle. It is probable that irrigating in the daytime when crop evapotranspiration is highest could prevent the effects of a temporal change and other problems connected with the soil. Moreover, water will be always available for the crop. Further experiments are needed to justify the results and to study the effects of low frequency drip irrigation on soil hydraulic characterization and consequently on soil water transfer in order to improve irrigation scheduling practices.