Authors: Aich, Shubhra, Anique Josuttes, Ilya Ovsyannikov, Keegan Strueby, Imran Ahmed, Hema Sudhakar Duddu, Curtis Pozniak, Steve Shirtliffe, and Ian Stavness.
Associations: Univ. Saskatchewan, Canada
Abstract: Improvement of crop water use efficiency (CWUE), defined as crop yield per volume of water used, is an important goal for both crop management and breeding. While many technologies have been developed for measuring crop water use in crop management studies, rarely have these techniques been applied at the scale of breeding plots. The objective was to develop a high-throughput methodology for quantifying water use in a cotton breeding trial at Maricopa, AZ, USA in 2016 and 2017, using evapotranspiration (ET) measurements from a co-located irrigation management trial to evaluate the approach. Approximately weekly overflights with an unmanned aerial system provided multispectral imagery from which plot-level fractional vegetation cover ( fc ) was computed. The fc data were used to drive a daily ET-based soil water balance model for seasonal crop water use quantification. A mixed model statistical analysis demonstrated that differences in ET and CWUE could be discriminated among eight cotton varieties ( p<0.05 ), which were sown at two planting dates and managed with four irrigation levels. The results permitted breeders to identify cotton varieties with more favorable water use characteristics and higher CWUE, indicating that the methodology could become a useful tool for breeding selection.