Crop water requirement, rainfall deficit and irrigation demand of major row crops in Mississippi Delta

Author(s): Tang, Q.; Feng, G.; Ouyang, Y.; Jenkins, J.

The Mississippi Delta is the most productive region in the state where 67% of the state croplands is located. Because irrigation can stabilize and increase crop yield and profit, irrigated acreage is rapidly increasing. Currently, irrigated croplands are not over 30% of its croplands yet, which already consumed groundwater down to the alarming level due to lack of knowledge regarding rainfall deficit and crop water requirement in the region. Objective of this study was to determine rain water deficit, crop water requirement and irrigation demand for improving irrigation management of crops grown in the MS Delta. We developed a STELLA soil water balance model and utilized weather records at Stoneville station for 100-years period, 1915 to 2015. The analysis showed average annual rainfall was 1290 mm with a mean annual reference evapotranspiration (ETo) value of 1202 mm. Most rainfall occurred off-growing season in January to April, November and December, their mean monthly rainfall was 124, 123, 130, 134, 120, and 133 mm, while less rain was received in August (66 mm), September (80 mm), October (81 mm), May (81 mm), June (90 mm), and July (94 mm). Soybean, corn and cotton were typically planted in early May, late March, and late May, harvested in mid-September, late August, and late October in the MS Delta. Rainfall during the growing season for soybean, corn and cotton was 400, 510, and 435 mm, accounted for 31%, 40% and 34% of annual rainfall over the 100-years period. Early seeding can make crops receive more rainfall, therefore, reduce degree and days of water stress during growing season. Averaged evapotranspiration (ETc) of soybean, corn and cotton was 546, 588, 552 mm. Rainfall is no longer to meet water requirement of soybean, corn and cotton since the 6th, 8th, and 7th weeks after planting, which resulted in rainfall deficit (difference between ETc and rainfall) of 262, 237, and 228 mm, respectively, on average over the last 100 years. As expected, more pan evaporation (E) was measured in May (199 mm), June (213 mm), July (205 mm), and August (189 mm). High linear correlation between monthly E and ETo was found (ETo=0.7829E-0.0468, R2=0.98). Monthly ETo can be estimated in terms of the equation by monthly E values which can be easily measured. Results obtained from the 100 years-long historical time-series data can be applied to improve irrigation scheduling, water resources planning and better design cropping system in the MS Delta.

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