Total evaporation estimation from sugarcane using the scintillation technique.
Ongoing concerns about the efficient and sustainable utilisation of South Africa’s water resources have resulted in much interest regarding the water use of different land uses within a catchment. Research has been focussed on water use by different dryland vegetation, in particular commercial forestry which has been declared a Stream Flow Reduction Activity for which a water use license is required for production. Consequently, concerns about the water use of other dryland crops have lead to a need to quantify water use by other land uses, particularly sugarcane. In this document, previous research focussed on water use by sugarcane is reviewed and summarised, together with an experiment where an energy balance approach has been used to quantify water consumption in the form of total evaporation for an area of sugarcane production in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands with an assessment of the seasonal variability of this water consumption for a period of 1 year. The study was performed using a Large Aperture Scintillometer to measure sensible heat flux, whilst all other energy balance components, as well as rainfall, soil moisture and other climatic data were obtained using standard methods. Total evaporation was estimated from latent heat flux which was derived as a residual of the energy balance. Total evaporation varies over the year with substantially higher values occurring in summer in response to high energy and water availability. Over the year, the crop used approximately 630mm of water which equates to 53% of rainfall at the site. The two main factors affecting the seasonal variability of water use by sugarcane are net radiation and soil moisture content. In the wetter months when soil moisture is readily available, net radiation limits total evaporation. In the drier months, soil moisture is not as readily available, and limits total evaporation. Air temperature and relative humidity proved to also be important considerations in their effect on total evaporation. The total evaporation estimates obtained could be compared to a baseline (grassland) and used in simulations for a better understanding of the stream flow reduction potential of sugarcane and the seasonal variability thereof.
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