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Towards using a thermal infrared index combined with water balance modelling to monitor sugarcane irrigation in a tropical environment

Lebourgeois V., Chopart J.L., Bégué A., Le Mezo L.. 2010. Agricultural Water Management, 97 (1) : p. 75-82.

DOI: 10.1016/j.agwat.2009.08.013

In humid regions, the timing and quantity of a complementary irrigation regime is challenging because of the irregularity of rainfalls events. In this study, we tested the use of a thermal infrared derived empirical crop water stress index (CWSIe) as an in situ measurement of the water status of sugarcane, to better monitor the irrigation scheduling. To do this, we set up a 2-year experiment in Reunion Island, on a trial with plots under different water conditions (rainfed and irrigated). Crop surface temperature was measured daily with infrared radiometers (Apogee Instruments) installed above the canopy, and soil moisture and drainage measurements were used to derive the ratio between actual and maximum evapotranspiration (AET/MET) values that were then averaged on ''hydrically homogeneous'' time periods (between 7 and 25 days). Only the thermal data acquired on clear days and 1 h after noon in 2007 were used to define the empirical lower and upper baselines required for the calculation of empirical CWSI. The data set acquired in 2008 was used to test the robustness of the method as we used the upper and lower baselines defined in 2007 to calculate CWSIe. The linear regression between AET/MET and (1 _ CWSIe) averaged on the same periods (values ranging between 0.4 and 1) showed a significant correlation for both experimental years (global R2 = 0.75 and RMSE = 0.12). This result indicates the effectiveness of the CWSIe to measure the water status of the sugarcane crop, even in humid conditions with a vapor pressure deficit (VPD) between 0.5 and 2.1. We conclude the study by discussing the complementarity of this remote water stress index (CWSIe) with OSIRI water balance modelling tool currently used in Reunion Island for monitoring sugarcane crop irrigation.

Mots-clés : saccharum officinarum; bilan hydrique; calendrier des irrigations; stress dû à la sécheresse; modélisation des cultures; Évapotranspiration; triticum; thermomètre; rayonnement infrarouge; réunion; france

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