Seasonal and inter-annual variability of soil moisture stress function in dryland wheat field, Australia
It is assumed that the ratio of actual evapotranspiration (AET) to potential evapotranspiration (PET) is mostly controlled by the soil water content available for ET. This control is formulated using the soil moisture stress function (SSF), where the evaporative fraction (EF) or the fraction of the AET to PET (fPET) is assumed to be either a linear or a non-linear function of soil moisture. We examine the effectiveness of the soil moisture stress function to quantify soil moisture control on EF or fPET over a dryland wheat field in Victoria, Australia. Micrometeorological observations from two cropping seasons were used for the analysis. The efficacy of a root-density-weighted soil moisture estimate in predicting EF and fPET was investigated as against the commonly assumed fixed-depth root zone soil moisture. However, results indicate a strong relationship between EF and available soil water fraction (AWF) in the root zone only when solar radiation is higher than 5 MJ/m2 /day. As the rooting depth increases with vegetation growth, SSF exhibits the strongest correlation with AWF for increasing soil profile depth. In the early and harvest- ing crop growth stages, ET is constrained mostly by surface soil moisture (0–5 cm). In the mid-growth stages, ET is strongly influenced by soil moisture in the root zone (0–60 cm). The shape of SSF, however, changes significantly between the two years (2012 and 2013). It is inferred that different temporal rainfall patterns between the years caused wheat’s different response to water stress.