Use of canopy temperature to optimize water use and irrigation management in sorghum

Project Details

  • James Mahan
  • USDA-ARS Lubbock
  • $42,504
  • Year: 2009


Project Summary

The combination of declining water resources and increasing costs for irrigation have resulted in renewed interest in the optimization of water use in sorghum. New water-efficient germplasm and improved irrigation management can both contribute to economical water use. The development of tools for the identification of improved sorghum hybrids and irrigation scheduling methods tailored to sorghum will provide new opportunities for sorghum as a profitable crop under limiting water conditions.

Regardless of the germplasm used by the producer, profitability will be improved by appropriate irrigation management. Some current irrigation methods are not well-suited for use in many sorghum production settings. This project will provide the basis for implementation of the BIOTIC irrigation scheduling in sorghum across a range of irrigation intensities.

While new sorghum germplasm is essential for production under limited irrigation, the identification of germplasm for improved water use is limited by the lack of suitable methods for monitoring water use among large numbers of sorghum hybrids. A newly developed infrared thermometry system used in this study, coupled with new insights into the relationship between plant temperature and water use, will provide a new tool for germplasm identification.

Over a 20-year period scientists from the Plant Stress and Germplasm Development Research Unit in Lubbock TX have carried out extensive research into the use of plant temperature for the management of crop irrigation. A number of crop species have been studied though the bulk of the studies have utilized cotton. Insight into the relationship between crop canopy temperature and water status resulted in an irrigation management protocol referred to as BIOTIC that has been licensed by Smartfield Inc ( Smartfield is marketing a device based upon our BIOTIC protocol under the name Smartcrop. Smartfield’s hardware and software provides a conduit for the direct transfer of the results of this study into the production agricultural community.

A “spin-off” product of BIOTIC research is a simple to use low-cost wireless infrared thermometry system that has greatly simplified the use of infrared thermometry in agricultural settings and is compatible with production systems. This new temperature monitoring system coupled with our previously developed BIOTIC irrigation scheduling provides the basis for the use of canopy temperature for the identification promising germplasm for production under limited irrigation.

The current commercial status of the technology coupled with the researchers’ previous experience in technology transfer provide a pathway to rapid adoption of the approaches developed in this project.