Articles | Volume 12, issue 3
Research article
23 Mar 2012
Research article |  | 23 Mar 2012

Estimation of the daily water consumption by maize under Atlantic climatic conditions (A Coruña, NW Spain) using Frequency Domain Reflectometry – a case study

R. M. Mestas-Valero, J. M. Mirás-Avalos, and E. Vidal-Vázquez

Abstract. Climatic variables and soil present a high spatio-temporal variability. Evapotranspiration estimations based on climatic variables may be inadequate for assessing soil water content in the root-influenced zone and/or soil water consumption by plants. Other methods may provide better estimates of this water consumption. The aim of this study was to quantify the soil moisture dynamics in the root-influenced zone and to assess the daily water consumption by the crop using Frequency Domain Reflectometry (FDR). The studied site is located in A Coruña (Spain). The study was carried out from June to October in 2008 and 2009, in a maize (Zea mays, L.) field on a silt-clay textured soil. Evapotranspiration was estimated by the Penman-Monteith equation using meteorological data from a station located on the experimental site. Soil water content in the root-influenced zone (0–60 cm depth) was hourly monitored each 20 cm (0–20 cm, 20–40 cm, and 40–60 cm) using FDR. Evaluations were performed on days with slight or no rainfall. During the study period, the magnitude of the diurnal soil water loss was more evident in the first layer (0–20 cm depth) and less important in the subsequent soil layers. The greatest consumption occurred between 14 and 19 h, up to 53.64% of the total. Overall, daily water consumption increased significantly with soil water content (p-value < 0.001). In general, water losses from the 0–20 cm soil layer were greater than in subsoil horizons due to maize water-uptake and evaporation. In contrast, water content in the deepest part of the soil profile was close to saturation, even on the driest days of the studied period. Evapotranspiration overestimate maize water requirements as its values were greater than those measured with the probe. In conclusion, FDR allows a more accurate estimation of the soil water balance. Therefore, monitoring soil water content would be useful in the assessment of saturation risks or water stress (drought), thus aiding in the decision making, for instance, in irrigation management. Results from this study may help to improve irrigation practices in humid zones.