Cotton canopy reflectance under variable solar zenith angles: Implications of use in evapotranspiration models

Christopher M.U. Neale, Maria P. Gonzalez-Dugo, Angelica Serrano-Perez, Isidro Campos, Luciano Mateos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Evapotranspiration (ET) is an important parameter in hydrologic processes and modelling. In agricultural watersheds with competing uses of fresh water including irrigated agriculture, estimating crop evapotranspiration (ETc) accurately is critical for improving irrigation system and basin water management. The use of remote sensing-based basal crop coefficients is becoming a common method for estimating crop evapotranspiration for multiple crops over large areas. The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and the Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index (SAVI), based on reflectance in the red and near-infrared bands, are commonly used for this purpose. In this paper, we examine the effects of row crop orientation and soil background darkening due to shading and soil surface wetness on these two vegetation indices through modelling, coupled with a field experiment where canopy reflectance of a cotton crop at different solar zenith angles, was measured with a portable radiometer. The results show that the NDVI is significantly more affected than the SAVI by background shading and soil surface wetness, especially in north–south oriented rows at higher latitudes and could lead to a potential overestimation of crop evapotranspiration and irrigation water demand if used for basal crop coefficient estimation. Relationships between the analysed vegetation indices and canopy biophysical parameters such as crop height, fraction of cover and leaf area index also were developed for both indices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere14162
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • biophysical parameters
  • cotton canopy reflectance
  • energy balance models
  • evapotranspiration
  • reflectance-based crop coefficients

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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