Analysis of microclimate data measured over grass and soybean canopy and their impacts on penman-monteith grass and alfalfa reference evapotranspiration

Kari E. Skaggs, Suat Irmak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The use of Penman-Monteith (PM)-type combination-based energy-balance equations to estimate reference evapotranspiration (ETref) requires climatic data measured over well-watered and well-maintained reference grass or alfalfa vegetation surfaces. However, establishing and maintaining reference weather stations for a long period of time is a very formidable and expensive process. Thus, expansion of the microclimate data available for use in the PM equation for estimating ETref is needed. In the absence of reference weather stations, one alternative is using microclimatic data measured over other well-watered vegetation surfaces as inputs to the PM equation. This study determines if weather data collected from a well-watered soybean surface in a semihumid climate can be used for this purpose. Measured and estimated microclimate variables, including net radiation (Rn), average air temperature (Tave), dew-point temperature (Td), average relative humidity (RHave), aerodynamic resistance (Ra), and wind speed at 3 m (U3) of a soybean and a grass canopy in South Central Nebraska, were analyzed and compared. The aerodynamic resistances of the soybean and grass canopies showed the largest percent difference of any of the microclimate variables for both 2007 and 2008. Wind speed was the primary microclimate variable with the largest percent difference between the two fields. The average percent differences in between the soybean and grass field were 9.0 and 9.8% for 2007 and 2008. Although Tave, RHave, and Td percent differences were not that large, there were distinct seasonalities to the differences. Grass and alfalfa reference evapotranspiration (ETo and ETr, respectively) calculations using data from the soybean (ETo-s and ETr-s) and grass (ETo-g and ETr-g) canopies were compared daily and seasonally. Seasonal total ETo and ETr estimates using soybean and grass microclimate data were very close, and within 1 and 2% during 2007 (ETo-g = 583 mm and ETo-s = 576 mm; ETr-g = 751 mm and ETr-s = 733 mm), and 4 and 5% during 2008 (ETo-g = 554 mm and ETo-s = 531 mm; ETr-g = 707 mm and ETr-s = 669mm). In 2007, differences in temperature variables were most correlated to differences in ETref estimates. In 2008, the greatest correlations of differences in ETo and ETr were with differences in Tave, RHave, and u3. The results indicated that the microclimate data measured over an irrigated soybean canopy during normal or wet years (rainfall ≥ 300 mm during the growing season) can be used in place of measurements taken over a grass canopy to estimate ETo and ETr in climatic conditions similar to semihumid climatic conditions of South Central Nebraska when reference weather station data are not available to solve the standardized PM equation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-134
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 5 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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