Effective irrigation uniformity as related to root zone depth

R. Wallach*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In models used for relating the yield to irrigation uniformity it has been assumed that the spatial distribution of irrigation water, as measured at the soil surface, is indeed the water distribution at any depth throughout the root zone. In the present paper the distribution of infiltrated water within the soil bulk, as determined by an analytic solution of the two-dimensional unsaturated flow equation, did not conform to this assumption. A new alternative definition of irrigation uniformity is proposed under the assumption that water uptake by roots does not affect the flux distribution within the soil profile. In this analysis the spatial distribution of irrigation water flux at the soil surface, which is the upper boundary condition of the flow equation, is assumed to be a sine function. The solution to this problem indicates that there is a "damping" effect, which increases with soil depth, on the surface flux fluctuations. Furthermore, the actual irrigation uniformity at a given depth below the soil surface depends upon the initial uniformity at the surface and the distance between adjacent water sources. The closer the water sources are to each other, the shallower is the depth needed to damp the oscillations down to a certain level. This may explain why the actual uniformity of drip irrigation is high while the detailed distribution is very nonuniform and on the other hand, why the actual uniformity of sprinkler guns is low while the detailed actual distribution is close to uniform. Two uniformity coefficients are derived in this study: 1. A depth dependent coefficient which is made up of the damping factor that multiplies the flux fluctuations at the soil surface; 2. An effective uniformity coefficient, which is an average of the depth dependent coefficient over a part or the entire root zone. Different degrees of uniformity are expected when water is applied by different irrigation systems having similar uniformity coefficients at the soil surface, but dissimilar distances between the emitters. Assuming that crop yield depends to some extent on the uniformity of water depth actually available to the roots, the yields associated with such irrigation systems will probably also vary.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)15-21
Number of pages7
JournalIrrigation Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1990


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