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Compensatory uptake functions in empirical macroscopic root water uptake models – Experimental and numerical analysis

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  • Albasha, Rami
  • Mailhol, Jean-Claude
  • Cheviron, Bruno

Abstract

Macroscopic empirical root water uptake (RWU) models are often used in hydrological studies to predict water dynamics through the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum. RWU in macroscopic models is highly dependent on root density distribution (RDD). Therefore, compensatory uptake mechanisms are being increasingly considered to remedy this weakness. A common formulation of compensatory functions is to relate compensatory uptake rate to the plant water-stress status. This paper examines the efficiency of such compensatory functions to reduce the sensitivity of simulated actual transpiration (Ta), drainage (Draina) and RWU patterns to RDD. The possibility to replace the compensatory RWU functions by an adequate description of RDD is also discussed. The study was based on experimental and numerical analysis of two-dimensional soil-water dynamics of 11 maize plots, irrigated using sprinkler (Asp), subsurface drip (SDI) systems, or rainfed (RF). Soil-water dynamics were simulated using a physically-based soil-water flow model coupled to a macroscopic empirical compensatory RWU model. For each plot, simulation scenarios involved crossing 6 RDD profiles with 6 compensatory levels. RDD was found to be the main factor in the determination of RWU patterns, Ta and Draina rates, with and without the compensatory mechanism. The use of a water-tracking RDD, i.e., higher uptake intensity in expected wetter soil regions, was found a surrogate for compensatory RWU functions in surface-watering simulations (Asp and RF). However, in SDI simulations, a water-tracking RDD should be combined to a high level of compensatory uptake to satisfactorily reproduce real RWU patterns. Our results further suggest that the compensatory RWU process is independent of the plant stress status and should be seen as a response to heterogeneous soil-water distribution. Our results contribute to the identification of optimum parameterization of empirical RWU models as a function of watering methods.

Suggested Citation

  • Albasha, Rami & Mailhol, Jean-Claude & Cheviron, Bruno, 2015. "Compensatory uptake functions in empirical macroscopic root water uptake models – Experimental and numerical analysis," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 22-39.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agiwat:v:155:y:2015:i:c:p:22-39
    DOI: 10.1016/j.agwat.2015.03.010
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