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Publication #AE455

Evapotranspiration-Based Irrigation for Agriculture: Sources of Evapotranspiration Data for Irrigation Scheduling in Florida1

Isaya Kisekka, Kati W. Migliaccio, Michael D. Dukes, Bruce Schaffer, Jonathan H. Crane, and Kelly Morgan2

This article is part of a series on ET-based irrigation scheduling for agriculture. The rest of the series can be found at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_series_ET-based_irrigation_scheduling_for_agriculture.

Introduction

The first step to using evapotranspiration (ET) for irrigation scheduling is to estimate reference ET (ETo). This article lists some of the public sources of ETo in Florida.

Evapotranspiration: Basic Concepts

ET is the process through which water is lost to the atmosphere from the soil by evaporation and from plants by transpiration. ET of a specific crop (also referred to as "crop ET" or "actual ET") is affected by several factors including weather, the crop under consideration, its management, and environmental variables (Table 1). The more information available about factors affecting ET, the more accurate the ET prediction will be. Generally, ET is not directly measured but estimated using mathematical equations that have been developed over time and selected site-specific factors listed in Table 1. More information on basic ET concepts can be found in Evapotranspiration: Potential or Reference at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae256.

Crop ET (ETc) is calculated as ETo multiplied by the crop coefficient (Kc). ETo refers to ET from a well-watered hypothetical grass surface of known characteristics (height and surface resistance). It expresses the evaporative demand of the atmosphere at a given location independent of crop type, stage of development, and management practices. The different mathematical equations used for ETo estimation are based on different concepts, and the variables (inputs) to include depend on the equation selected. ETo may be determined using a complex equation (i.e., Penman Monteith) or simpler equations (i.e., Hargreaves). It is important to know which radiation or temperature-based method to use in the calculation of ETo because some equations are more accurate than others depending on the location where they are applied (Table 2). Basic information on how to estimate ETo can be found in Smart Irrigation Controllers: Operation of Evapotranspiration-Based Controllers at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae446.

The Kc component of Equation 1 integrates the crop characteristics (e.g., crop height, fraction of net radiation absorbed at the land surface, canopy resistance, and evaporation from bare soil surface) into the ETc estimation equation, to account for the difference in transpiration between the actual crop and the reference grass. Typical Kc values for some Florida crops can be found in Evapotranspiration-Based Irrigation for Agriculture: Crop Coefficients of Some Commercial Crops in Florida at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae456. General information on estimating crop water requirements for irrigation from ETc can be found in Evapotranspiration-Based Irrigation Scheduling for Agriculture at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae457.

Sources of ETo Data for Implementing ET-Based Irrigation Scheduling in Florida

Two types of ETo data can be used in ET-based irrigation scheduling: 1) historical ETo and 2) real-time ETo. Historical ETo should represent long-term daily, monthly, or seasonal ETo averages, for a long record of data that includes yearly and 10-year variations. Real-time ETo used to schedule irrigation is updated daily, which provides an advantage over the historical ETo-based approach because it accounts for daily variations in weather conditions. Florida growers can easily obtain real-time ETo and monthly average ETo data from the Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) website at http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/ where ETo is estimated using the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) (1984) modified Penman equation. Daily, average daily, and historic monthly ETo can be obtained from the FAWN database for numerous locations throughout Florida using the following steps:

  • Go to http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/.

  • Click Tools on the top menu.

  • Click Evapotranspiration (ET) on the drop-down menu (under Irrigation).

  • A table with daily ETo for the past 7 calendar days and the 7-day average ET for each of the FAWN weather station sites will appear. A graph with the past 14 days ETo for selected FAWN sites is also available.

Historical data can also be obtained from FAWN by clicking on the Data Access menu tab and selecting Report Generator.

Actual ET data in Florida can be obtained from the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Data can be accessed as follows:

  • Go to http://fl.water.usgs.gov/et/.

  • Click Links to NWIS Web Data to view a map of monitoring stations and site names.

  • Click on the station closest to you.

  • In the dialogue box that appears, click NWIS Web Data.

  • Daily ET data are then presented using graphs or tables.

Of the two public sources of ET data, data from USGS has the greatest quality control in estimating actual ET over the different land covers where USGS has ET monitoring stations, but the data available is limited to only a 10-year period (1995–2005) at some sites. FAWN has a wider coverage of weather stations and a more continuous period of record.

Conclusion

Obtaining ETo or actual ET values from the above public weather data sources will improve estimation of crop water requirements, which are key to implementing ET-based irrigation schedules. For ETo estimation using radiation- or temperature-based methods, always select the method most suitable for your area.

References

Dukes, M. D., M. L. Shedd, and S.L. Davis. 2009. Smart Irrigation Controllers: Operation of Evapotranspiration-Based Controllers. AE446. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae446.

Irmak, S., and D. Z. Haman. 2003. Evapotranspiration: Potential or Reference? ABE343. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae256.

Jacobs, J.M., and S.R. Satti. 2001. Evaluation of Reference Evapotranspiration Methodologies and AFSIRS Crop Water Use Simulation. Final Report. Palatka, FL: St. Johns River Water Management District. http://www.sjrwmd.com/technicalreports/pdfs/SP/SJ2001-SP8.pdf.

Kisekka, I., K. W. Migliaccio, B. Schaffer, J. H. Crane, and M. D. Dukes. 2009. Evapotranspiration-Based Irrigation for Agriculture: Crop Coefficients of Some Commercial Crops in Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae456.

Kisekka, I., K. W. Migliaccio, B. Schaffer, J. H. Crane, and M. D. Dukes. 2009. Evapotranspiration-Based Irrigation Scheduling for Agriculture. AE457. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae457.

Tables

Table 1. 

Factors that influence ET.

Factors that influence ET

Examples

Weather parameters

solar radiation

air temperature

relative humidity

wind speed

Crop factors

crop type

variety

stage of development

 

Management

soil water management

pest control

poor soil management

plant density

Environmental

soil salinity

impenetrable soil layers

   
Table 2. 

Examples of simpler radiation-based equations that can be used to estimate ETo for different locations in Florida.

Geographical location

Radiation-based methods

Southeast Florida1

Turc (1961)

Priestley-Taylor

SFWMD-SM3

Northeast and North-Central Florida2

Turc (1961)

Hargreaves4

SFWMD5

Note: These simpler radiation-based ETo estimation equations should only be used when complete weather data sets are not available to evaluate the American Society of Civil Engineers-Environmental and Water Resources Institute (ASCE-EWRI) standardized ETo estimation equation.

1Methods selected are based on comparison of ETo estimation equations in Southeast Florida (Miami-Dade and Broward Counties) by Kisekka et al. (2009) (unpublished).

2Methods selected are based on comparison of ETo estimation equations in Northeast and North-Central Florida (Jacksonville, Gainesville, and Daytona Beach) by Jacobs and Satti (2001).

3South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)-Simple Method

4Jacobs and Satti (2001) classified Hargreaves et al. (1985) as a radiation-based method.

5Modified Blaney-Criddle with SFWMD crop coefficients.

Footnotes

1.

This document is AE455, one of a series of the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date January 2010. Revised February 2013. Reviewed July 2013. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Isaya Kisekka, graduate student, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Tropical Research and Education Center, Homestead, FL; Kati W. Migliaccio, associate professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Tropical Research and Education Center, Homestead, FL; Michael D. Dukes, interim chair, Department of Environmental Horticulture, and professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Bruce Schaffer, professor, Department of Horticultural Sciences, Tropical Research and Education Center, Homestead, FL; Jonathan H. Crane, professor, Department of Horticultural Sciences, Tropical Research and Education Center, Homestead, FL; Kelly Morgan, associate professor, Department of Soil and Water Science, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, Immokalee, FL; Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.


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U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.