Impact of sowing date on yield and water use efficiency of wheat analyzed through spatial modeling and FORMOSAT-2 images

Benoit Duchemin, Rémy Fieuzal, Miguel Augustin Rivera, Jamal Ezzahar, Lionel Jarlan, Julio César Rodriguez, Olivier Hagolle, Christopher Watts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Regional analysis of water use efficiency (WUE) is a relevant method for diagnosing the performance of irrigation systems in water-limited environments. In this study, we investigated the potential of FORMOSAT-2 images to provide spatial estimates of WUE over irrigated wheat crops cultivated within the semi-arid Yaqui Valley, in the northwest of Mexico. FORMOSAT-2 provided us with a unique dataset of 36 images at a high resolution (8 m) encompassing the wheat growing season from November 2007 to May 2008. Time series of green leaf area index were derived from these satellite images and used to calibrate a simple crop/water balance model. The method was applied over an 8 × 8 km2 irrigated area on up to 530 wheat fields. It allowed us to accurately reproduce the time courses of Leaf Area Index and dry aboveground biomass, as well as evapotranspiration and soil moisture. In a second step, we analyzed the variations of WUE as the ratio of accumulated dry aboveground biomass to seasonal evapotranspiration. Despite the study area being rather small and homogeneous (soil, climate), we observed a large range in wheat biomass production, from 5 to 15 t·ha-1, which was primarily related to the timing of plant emergence. In contrast, the seasonal evapotranspiration only varied from 350 to 450 mm, with no evident link with sowing practices. A significant gain in crop water productivity was found for the fields sown the earliest (maximal WUE around 3.5 kg·m-3) compared to those sown the latest (minimal WUE around 1.5 kg·m-3). These results demonstrated the value of the FORMOSAT-2 images to provide spatial estimates of crop production and water consumption. The detailed information provided by such high space and time resolution imaging systems is highly valuable to identify agricultural practices that could enlarge crop water productivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5951-5979
Number of pages29
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by the authors.


  • Biomass production
  • Crop model
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Irrigation
  • Remote sensing
  • Sowing
  • Water balance
  • Water use efficiency
  • Wheat


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