Soybean crop-water production functions in a humid region across years and soils determined with APEX model
Crop production as a function of water use or water applied, called the crop water production function (CWPF), is a useful tool for irrigation planning, design and management. However, these functions are not only crop and variety specific they also vary with soil types and climatic conditions (locations). Derivation of multi-year average CWPFs through field experiments for different locations and soils is time-consuming and expensive, as it requires careful long-term and multi-location field experiments to obtain them. Process based crop system models provide a useful tool for determining CWPFs using short term field experimental data for calibration and validation. The aim of this study was to determine soybean CWPFs using the Agricultural Policy/Environmental eXtender (APEX) model across three soil types (Vaiden-silty clay, Cahaba-sandy loam, and Demopolis-clay loam) and three weather conditions (14-year average from 2002 to 2015, dry, and wet) of a humid irrigated region in Mississippi, USA. The results showed that the relationship between simulated soybean grain yield (GY) and the seasonal crop evapotranspiration (ET) for each soil under 14-year average weather condition was linear. Compared with the Vaiden soil, the Cahaba and Demopolis soils had slightly higher water use efficiency (WUE) over 14-year average weather conditions. The CWPFs for GY vs supplemental irrigation were cubic polynomials for all soil types and weather conditions, with varying coefficients. The maximum values of irrigation water use efficiency (IWUE) derived from these cubic CWPFs varied from 2.58 to 9.89kgha−1mm−1 across soils and weather conditions. The irrigation amount during the growing season required (Imax) to achieve the maximum GY for soybean also had a wide range of values, from 110 to 405mm. The IWUE and Imax were related to available water holding capacity of soils. The relationship between GY and total plant available water supply (TWS) was also a cubic function, with coefficients varying with soil types and climatic conditions. The yield response factor (Ky) was 1.24 (greater than 1.00) when averaged over 14 years’ weather data, indicating that soybean was very sensitive to water stress even in a humid region like Mississippi. Thus, supplemental irrigation was necessary to increase GY and ensure stability in yields.