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Evapotranspiration of horticultural crops in an unheated plastic greenhouse

Agricultural Water Management
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.agwat.2004.09.010
  • Crop Coefficient
  • Crop Evapotranspiration
  • Horticultural Crops
  • Plastic Greenhouse
  • Models
  • Agricultural Science
  • Medicine


Abstract Large unheated greenhouse areas are located in the coastal lands of the Mediterranean Basin, based on low-cost structures covered with plastic. Water is a scarce resource in these areas and therefore it is necessary to optimise irrigation practice by applying the crop water needs, thus avoiding waste. This work was undertaken to determine the water requirements of four major horticultural crops grown in an unheated plastic greenhouse located in Almería, Spain. Drainage lysimeters were used to determine the seasonal evapotranspiration (ET) of four crops (melon, green beans, watermelon and pepper), which ranged from 170 to 371 mm and it was associated with the reference ET (ET 0). Compared to irrigated crops outdoors, the seasonal ET of the greenhouse horticultural crops is relatively low due to the lower evaporative demand inside the greenhouse and to a further reduction in solar radiation transmission by whitening in late spring and summer. Additionally, off-season greenhouse crops are grown during low evaporative demand periods, thus the low water requirements. Crop coefficient ( K c) curves were obtained for the four crops under different conditions. The K c values varied with the crop, stage of development, and with management practices. Measured peak K c values for crops, which were not vertically supported (melon and watermelon) were between 1 and 1.1, similar to the measured values for the same crops under field conditions. By contrast, peak K c values for vertically supported (VS) crops (melon, green bean and sweet pepper) varied between 1.3 and 1.4, which are higher than those reported for outdoors. The tall and open canopy structures of the VS greenhouse crops, their high leaf area indices, along with the high proportion of diffuse radiation inside the greenhouse, allowed for more uniform light penetration within the canopies and ET rates in those crops higher than those of the short, non-supported crops. Management and climatic conditions combined to define an unusual K c curve for sweet pepper. The crop is transplanted in late summer and reaches the peak K c in early winter. Because of the low temperatures, K c decreased thereafter down to about 1.0, until climatic conditions inside the greenhouse improved. From late winter to the end of the season, K c was either stable or increased steadily. A simple K c model based on thermal time for greenhouse crops with and without pruning, was proposed and validated. The model gave accurate estimates of measured K c values for melon and pepper.

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