Measuring Evapotranspiration Suppression from the Wind Drift and Spray Water Losses for LESA and MESA Sprinklers in a Center Pivot Irrigation System

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Wind drift and evaporation loss (WDEL) of mid-elevation spray application (MESA) and low-elevation spray application (LESA) sprinklers on a center pivot and linear-move irrigation machines are measured and reported to be about 20% and 3%, respectively. It is important to estimate the fraction of WDEL that cools and humidifies the microclimate causing evapotranspiration (ET) suppression, mitigating the measured irrigation system losses. An experiment was conducted in 2018 and 2019 in a commercial spearmint field near Toppenish, Washington. The field was irrigated with an 8-span center pivot equipped with MESA but had three spans that were converted to LESA. All-in-one weather sensors (ATMOS-41) were installed just above the crop canopy in the middle of each MESA and LESA span and nearby but outside of the pivot field (control) to record meteorological parameters on 1 min intervals. The ASCE Penman–Monteith (ASCE-PM) standardized reference equations were used to calculate grass reference evapotranspiration (ETo) from this data on a one-minute basis. A comparison was made for the three phases of before, during, and after the irrigation system passed the in-field ATMOS-41 sensors. In addition, a small unmanned aerial system (UAS) was used to capture 5-band multispectral (ground sampling distance [GSD]: 7 cm/pixel) and thermal infrared images (GSD: 13 cm/pixel) while the center pivot irrigation system was irrigating the field. This imagery data was used to estimate crop evapotranspiration (ETc) using a UAS-METRIC energy balance model. The UAS-METRIC model showed that the estimated ETc under MESA was suppressed by 0.16 mm/day compared to the LESA. Calculating the ETo by the ASCE-PM method showed that the instantaneous ETo rate under the MESA was suppressed between 8% and 18% compared to the LESA. However, as the time of the ET suppression was short, the total amount of the estimated suppressed ET of the MESA was less than 0.5% of the total applied water. Overall, the total reduction in the ET due to the microclimate modifications from wind drift and evaporation losses were small compared to the reported 17% average differences in the irrigation application efficiency between the MESA and the LESA. Therefore, the irrigation application efficiency differences between these two technologies were very large even if the ET suppression by wind drift and evaporation losses was accounted for.

Molaei, B.; Peters, R.T.; Chandel, A.K.; Khot, L.R.; Stockle, C.O.; Campbell, C.S. Measuring Evapotranspiration Suppression from the Wind Drift and Spray Water Losses for LESA and MESA Sprinklers in a Center Pivot Irrigation System. Water 2023, 15, 2444.