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Modeling soil water dynamics in a drip-irrigated intercropping field under plastic mulch

  • Author(s): Li, X
  • Shi, H
  • Šimůnek, J
  • Gong, X
  • Peng, Z
  • et al.
Abstract

Intercropping, drip irrigation, and the use of plastic mulch are important management practices, which can, when utilized simultaneously, increase crop production and save irrigation water. Investigating soil water dynamics in the root zone of the intercropping field under such conditions is essential in order to understand the combined effects of these practices and to promote their wider use. However, not much work has been done to investigate soil water dynamics in the root zone of drip-irrigated, strip intercropping fields under plastic mulch. Three field experiments with different irrigation treatments (high T1, moderate T2, and low T3) were conducted to evaluate soil water contents (SWC) at different locations, for different irrigation treatments, and with respect to dripper lines and plants (corn and tomatoes). Experimental data were then used to calibrate the HYDRUS (2D/3D) model. Comparison between experimental data and model simulations showed that HYDRUS (2D/3D) described different irrigation events and SWC in the root zone well, with average relative errors of 10.8, 9.5, and 11.6 % for irrigation treatments T1, T2, and T3, respectively, and with corresponding root mean square errors of 0.043, 0.035, and 0.040 cm3 cm−3, respectively. The results showed that the SWC in the shallow root zone (0–40 cm) was lower under non-mulched locations than under mulched locations, irrespective of the irrigation treatment, while no significant differences in the SWC were observed in the deeper root zone (40–100 cm). The SWC in the shallow root zone was significantly higher for the high irrigation treatment (T1) than for the low irrigation treatment, while, again, no differences were observed in the deeper root zone. Simulations of two-dimensional SWC distributions revealed that the low irrigation treatment (T3) produced serious severe water stress (with SWCs near the wilting point) in the 30–40 cm part of the root zone, and that using separate drip emitter lines for each crop is well suited for producing the optimal soil water distribution pattern in the root zone of the intercropping field. The results of this study can be very useful in designing an optimal irrigation plan for intercropped fields.

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