Biological Systems Engineering, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in Agricultural Water Management 256 (2021) 107061



Copyright © 2021 Elsevier B.V. Used by permission.


Irrigation has a great impact on global food security as it contributes to the majority of the world’s agricultural food supply. It is essential to judiciously utilize water resources through efficient irrigation management since the majority of U.S. groundwater aquifers are rapidly depleting. Thus, quantification of the relationships between water depletion and environmental factors is important for understanding crop response to varying levels of water stresses that depletion can cause. The objectives of this research were to: 1) investigate the relationship between root zone water depletion (Drw) and canopy temperature differential (ΔT) at different ranges of Drw; and 2) develop upper (water stressed) and lower (non-water stressed) baselines for quantification of crop water stress index (CWSI) in a sub-humid climate. The research was conducted over maize and soybean during 2018, 2019, and 2020 growing seasons. Sensor node stations comprising of an infrared thermometer and three soil water sensors were installed at various sites over maize and soybean fields. ΔT tends to increase with the increase in Drw when the range of Drw includes values greater than 170 mm for maize and values greater than 160 mm for soybean. The results indicate that ΔT and Drw are unrelated until a soil-water depletion threshold is attained, and these Drw threshold values could be considered as indicators to trigger irrigation for efficient agricultural water management. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, the research is the first to develop upper and lower CWSI baselines for east-central Nebraska. The baselines developed in this study could facilitate the quantification of CWSI for irrigation scheduling of maize and soybean in east-Central Nebraska. Future work should aim to investigate the potential in using Drw and/or ΔT to determine efficient water allocation and if a threshold CWSI could be used for timing of irrigation to prevent yield loss.