Portable canopy chamber measurements of evapotranspiration in corn, soybean, and reconstructed prairie

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Luo, Chenyi
Wang, Zhuangji
Sauer, Thomas
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Horton, Robert
Distinguished Professor
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The Department of Agronomy seeks to teach the study of the farm-field, its crops, and its science and management. It originally consisted of three sub-departments to do this: Soils, Farm-Crops, and Agricultural Engineering (which became its own department in 1907). Today, the department teaches crop sciences and breeding, soil sciences, meteorology, agroecology, and biotechnology.

The Department of Agronomy was formed in 1902. From 1917 to 1935 it was known as the Department of Farm Crops and Soils.

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  • Department of Farm Crops and Soils (1917–1935)

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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Evapotranspiration (ET) is a vital component of a field water balance. Canopy chambers are a promising method for determining crop ET because they are portable and applicable at a relatively small plot (m2) scale. Although a variety of canopy chamber designs have been proposed, field tests are still necessary to evaluate chamber performance for measuring crop ET. The objectives of this study are (1) to construct and use an improved canopy chamber to measure ET of three crops [corn (Zea mays, L.), soybean (Glycine max), and reconstructed mixed prairie] and (2) to compare the canopy chamber measurements with flux tower results and field water balance measurements (i.e., rainfall, soil water storage, ET and drainage). Three cropping systems including corn/soybean in a corn-soybean rotation, and reconstructed mixed prairie were studied in central Iowa. Canopy chamber daytime measurements were performed on 18 days in 2013 (a relatively dry growing season) and on 15 days in 2014 (a relatively wet growing season). Based on the results, the differences in daily ET and seasonal cumulative ET between canopy chambers and an eddy covariance flux tower over the measurement periods were within 5%, providing evidence that the portable canopy chamber can accurately measured ET. The chamber ET values and field water balance ET values had similar patterns over the 2013 and 2014 measurement periods, and the differences of cumulative results were less than 10%. In conclusion, the canopy chamber was proven to be an effective method for measuring small plot ET.


This article is published as Luo, Chenyi, Zhuangji Wang, Thomas J. Sauer, Matthew J. Helmers, and Robert Horton. "Portable canopy chamber measurements of evapotranspiration in corn, soybean, and reconstructed prairie." Agricultural Water Management 198 (2018): 1-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.agwat.2017.11.024. Posted with permission.