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Uncertainties in leaching assessment in micro-irrigated fields using water balance approach


Leaching is an important aspect of irrigation water management, as it must be minimal to save available irrigation water resources, prevent shallow groundwater tables, and reduce nutrient loadings to the groundwater. However, at the same time, leaching should be sufficient to maintain root zone salinity levels below the threshold to prevent yield reduction. Therefore, monitoring leaching is the key component in evaluation and optimization of irrigation water management practices. Water balance (WB) is a common approach used to estimate leaching in agricultural fields and was applied in this study to assess field-scale leaching and the associated uncertainties for an almond orchard under drip and micro-sprinkler irrigation systems. In this study, we showed that change is soil water storage (ΔS) is highly influenced by the extent of monitoring depth, the location and number of monitoring points. Local measurement of WB parameters showed that leaching is highly variable across the field, thereby introducing considerable uncertainty on estimated leaching using WB approach. It was also shown that unknown input of water through fog interception added to the complexity of closing water balance at field scale.

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