U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Document Type


Date of this Version



Irrig Sci (2017) 35:533–547, DOI 10.1007/s00271-017-0560-x.


U.S. government work.


Accurate parameterization of reference evapotranspiration ( ET0) is necessary for optimizing irrigation scheduling and avoiding costs associated with over-irrigation (water expense, loss of water productivity, energy costs, and pollution) or with under-irrigation (crop stress and suboptimal yields or quality). ET0 is often estimated using the FAO-56 method with meteorological data gathered over a reference surface, usually short grass. However, the density of suitable ET0 stations is often low relative to the microclimatic variability of many arid and semi-arid regions, leading to a potentially inaccurate ET0 for irrigation scheduling. In this study, we investigated multiple ET0 products from six meteorological stations, a satellite ET0 product, and integration (merger) of two stations’ data in Southern California, USA. We evaluated ET0 against lysimetric ET observations from two lysimeter systems (weighing and volumetric) and two crops (wine grapes and Jerusalem artichoke) by calculating crop ET ( ETc) using crop coefficients for the lysimetric crops with the different ET0. ETc calculated with ET0 products that incorporated field-specific wind speed had closer agreement with lysimetric ET, with RMSE reduced by 36 and 45% for grape and Jerusalem artichoke, respectively, with on-field anemometer data compared to wind data from the nearest station. The results indicate the potential importance of on-site meteorological sensors for ET0 parameterization; particularly where microclimates are highly variable and/or irrigation water is expensive or scarce.