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Model parameters of four important vegetable crops for improved water use and yield estimation

J.T. Vahrmeijer, J.G. Annandale, J.M. Steyn, K.L. Bristow


High-value vegetable crops are typically grown under irrigation to reduce production risk. For water resource planning it is essential to be able to accurately estimate water use of irrigated crops under a wide range of climatic conditions. Crop water use models provide a means to make water use and yield estimates, but need crop- and even cultivar-specific parameters. There is generally a lack of crop-specific model parameters for some important commercially grown vegetable crops, especially parameters determined over both summer and winter seasons. The experimental site used in this study was on the Steenkoppies Aquifer, a catchment under stress and an important vegetable production area in South Africa. Crop-specific growth parameters and water use for 4 selected high-value vegetable crops (beetroot, cabbage, carrots and broccoli) were measured over multiple seasons (two summers and one winter). These were used to parameterise the Soil Water Balance (SWB) generic crop growth model for both summer and winter seasons. In seasons where the same cultivar was planted, a single set of model parameters could be used to successfully simulate crop growth and water use. Results show that the amount of irrigation water required is dependent on season and rainfall, with broccoli having the lowest (1.8–2.7 kg m−3) and beetroot the highest (12.2–23.4 kg m−3) water productivity (WPFM), defined as fresh mass of marketable product per unit water consumed. The root crops had a greater harvest index (HIDM) than cabbage and broccoli. The parameters obtained expand the current database of SWB crop growth parameters for vegetables and can be used in a wide range of mechanistic simulation models to improve water management at field and catchment levels.

Keywords: SWB model, Steenkoppies Aquifer, carrot, broccoli, beetroot, cabbage

AJOL African Journals Online