Untangling irrigation effects on maize water and heat stress alleviation using satellite data
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Untangling irrigation effects on maize water and heat stress alleviation using satellite data


Abstract. Irrigation has important implications for sustaining global food production by enabling crop water demand to be met even under dry conditions. Added water also cools crop plants through transpiration; irrigation might thus play an important role in a warmer climate by simultaneously moderating water and high temperature stresses. Here we used satellite-derived evapotranspiration estimates, land surface temperature (LST) measurements, and crop phenological stage information from Nebraska maize to quantify how irrigation relieves both water and temperature stresses. Unlike air temperature metrics, satellite-derived LST revealed a significant irrigation-induced cooling effect, especially during the grain filling period (GFP) of crop growth. This cooling appeared to extend the maize growing season, especially for GFP, likely due to the stronger temperature sensitivity of phenological development during this stage. Our analysis also revealed that irrigation not only reduced water and temperature stress but also weakened the response of yield to these stresses. Specifically, temperature stress was significantly weakened for reproductive processes in irrigated maize. Attribution analysis further suggested that water and high temperature stress alleviation was responsible for 65±10 % and 35±5.3 % of the irrigation yield benefit, respectively. Our study underlines the relative importance of high temperature stress alleviation in yield improvement and the necessity of simulating crop surface temperature to better quantify heat stress effects in crop yield models. Finally, considering the potentially strong interaction between water and heat stress, future research on irrigation benefits should explore the interaction effects between heat and drought alleviation.

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