Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Transactions of the ASABE, Vol. 57(3): 729-748


Copyright 2014 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers


Soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] yield, irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE), crop water use efficiency (CWUE), evapotranspiration water use efficiency (ETWUE), and soil water extraction response to eleven treatments of full, limited, or delayed irrigation versus a rainfed control were investigated using a subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) system at a research site in south-central Nebraska. The SDI system laterals were 0.40 m deep in every other row middle of 0.76 m spaced plant rows. Actual evapotranspiration (ETa) was quantified in all treatments and used to schedule irrigation events on a 100% ETa replacement basis in all but three of the eleven treatments (i.e., 75% ETa replacement was used in two, and 60% ETa replacement was used in one). The irrigation amount (Ia) applied at each event was 100% of the ETa amount, except for two 100% ETa treatments in which only 65% or 50% of the water needed to cover the treatment plot area was applied to enable a test of a partial surface area-based irrigation approach. The first irrigation event was delayed until soybean stage R3 (begin pod) in two 100% Ia treatments, but thereafter they were irrigated with either 100% or 75% ETa replacement. Two 100% ETa and 100% Ia treatments also were used to evaluate soybean response to nitrogen (N) application methods (i.e., a preplant method versus N injection using the SDI system). Soybean ETa varied from 452 mm for the rainfed treatment to 600 mm (30% greater) for the fully irrigated treatment (100% ETa and 100% Ia) in 2007, and from 473 to 579 mm (20% greater) for the same treatments, respectively, in 2008. Among the irrigated treatments, 100% ETa and 65% Ia had the lowest 2007 ETa value (557 mm), whereas 100% ETa and 50% Ia had the lowest 2008 ETa (498 mm). The 100%, 75%, and 60% ETa treatments with 100% Ia had respective actual ETa values that declined linearly in 2008 (i.e., 579, 538, and 498 mm), but not in 2007. Seasonal totals for ETa versus Ia exhibited a linear relationship (R2 = 0.68 in 2007 and R2 = 0.67 in 2008). Irrigation enhanced soybean yields from rainfed yield baselines of 4.04 ton ha-1 in 2007 and 4.82 ton ha-1 in 2008) to a maximum of 4.94 ton ha-1 attained in 2007 with the delay to R3 irrigation treatment (its yield was significantly greater, p < 0.05, than that of the seven other treatments) and 4.97 ton ha-1 attained in 2008 with the 100% ETa and 100% Ia preplant N treatment. Seed yield had a quadratic relationship with irrigation water applied and a linear relationship with ETa that was stronger in the drier year of 2007. Each 25.4 mm incremental increase in seasonal irrigation water applied increased soybean yield by 0.323 ton ha-1 (beyond the intercept) in 2007 and by 0.037 ton ha-1 in 2008. Each 25.4 mm increase in ETa generated a yield increase of 0.114 ton ha-1 (beyond the intercept) in 2007, but only 0.02 ton ha-1 in the wetter year of 2008. This research demonstrated that delaying the onset of irrigation until the R3 stage and practicing full irrigation thereafter for soybean grown on silt loam soils resulted in yields (and crop water productivity) that were similar to full-season irrigation scheduling strategies, and this result may be applicable in other regions with edaphic and climatic characteristics similar to those in south-central Nebraska.