Winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) evapotranspiration and single (normal) and basal crop coefficients

Suat Irmak, Koffi Djaman, Vivek Sharma

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13 Scopus citations


Locally measured crop coefficients (Kc) are critical for accurately quantifying and evaluating crop evapotranspiration (ETc) under local climate, soil, and crop management practices. Data and information on winter wheat Kc values do not exist in Nebraska and are limited in the U.S. Great Plains in general. The objectives of this research were to measure ETc rates and develop growth-stage-specific single (normal) (Kc) and basal (Kcb) crop coefficients for winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) to provide data and information to producers, their advisors, and state and federal water regulatory and management agencies about the water use dynamics of winter wheat. Field experiments were conducted during two consecutive winter wheat growing seasons in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln South Central Agricultural Laboratory near Clay Center, Nebraska, in a 13.6 ha field. Hourly evapotranspiration was measured using a Bowen Ratio Energy Balance System (BREBS), and growth-specific single crop coefficients [grass-reference (Kco) and alfalfa-reference (Kcr)] and grass- and alfalfa-reference basal crop coefficients (Kcbo and Kcbr, respectively) were developed from measured ETc and estimated grass- and alfalfa-reference (potential) evapotranspiration (ETo and ETr, respectively). The Kco, Kcr, Kcbo, and Kcbr values were developed as a function of days after planting (DAP) and thermal unit (TU, also known as growing degree days). Winter wheat grain yield averaged 4.55 tons ha-1 in both growing seasons. Water productivity (water use efficiency) was 0.76 kg m-3 in 2008-2009 and 0.93 kg m-3 in 2009-2010. Daily ETc increased with DAP in the pre-winter and post-winter periods. Maximum daily ETc was measured on 129 DAP (19 May 2009; 9.5 mm d-1) in 2008-2009 and on 137 DAP (24 May 2010; 10.6 mm d-1) in 2009-2010. Seasonal cumulative ETc was 600 mm during 2008-2009 and 490 mm during 2009-2010, and seasonal daily average ETc was 2.1 and 1.6 mm d-1 for the two growing seasons, respectively. Crop coefficients varied substantially with the growth and development stages. Two-year average Kco values were 0.60, 1.30, and 0.30, and Kcr values were 0.40, 1.10, and 0.20 for the early-season, mid-season, and late-season crop growth and development stages, respectively. Two-year average Kcbo values were 0.45, 1.30, and 0.30, while Kcbr values were 0.30, 1.05, and 0.20 for the same growth stages, respectively. On average, Kco and Kcbo were about 20% greater than Kcr and Kcbr, and Kco and Kcr were about 10% to 11% greater than Kcbo and Kcbr. The seasonal average Kcbo was 87% of Kco, and Kcbr was 89% of Kcr. Therefore, transpiration is expected to be about 87% to 89% of ETc, and soil evaporation would be expected to be about 11% to 13% of ETc, but these percentages varied during the season. For example, soil evaporation during the winter wheat dormancy period represented 21% and 10% of seasonal ETc in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, respectively. The ratio of Kcbo to Kco ranged from 0.69 to 0.97, and the ratio of Kcbr to Kcr ranged from 0.63 to 0.98. A detailed Kc table was developed to present Kco, Kcr, Kcbo, and Kcbr values for different phenological and crop development stages. These values can be used by winter wheat producers, water regulatory agencies, and managers to evaluate water use of winter wheat with respect to availability and demand of water resources in soil and crop management and climatic conditions similar to those observed in south central Nebraska.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1047-1066
Number of pages20
JournalTransactions of the ASABE
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry
  • Food Science
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science


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