This publication presents an updated procedure for calculating reference and crop evapotranspiration from meteorological data and crop coefficients. The procedure, first presented in the FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper No. 24 'Crop Water Requirements', is termed the 'Kc ETo' approach, whereby the effect of the climate on crop water requirements is given by the reference evapotranspiration ETo and the effect of the crop by the crop coefficient Kc. Other procedures developed in FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper No. 24 such as the estimation of dependable and effective rainfall, the calculation of irrigation requirements and the design of irrigation schedules are not presented in this publication but will be the subject of later papers in the series.
Since the publication of FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper No. 24 in 1977, advances in research and more accurate assessment of crop water use have revealed the need to update the FAO methodologies for calculating ETo. The FAO Penman method was found to frequently overestimate ETo while the other FAO recommended equations, namely the radiation, the Blaney-Criddle, and the pan evaporation methods, showed variable adherence to the grass reference crop evapotranspiration.
In May 1990, FAO organized a consultation of experts and researchers in collaboration with the International Commission for Irrigation and Drainage and with the World Meteorological Organization, to review the FAO methodologies on crop water requirements and to advise on the revision and update of procedures.
The panel of experts recommended the adoption of the Penman-Monteith combination method as a new standard for reference evapotranspiration and advised on procedures for calculating the various parameters. The FAO Penman-Monteith method was developed by defining the reference crop as a hypothetical crop with an assumed height of 0.12 m, with a surface resistance of 70 s m-1 and an albedo of 0.23, closely resembling the evaporation from an extensive surface of green grass of uniform height, actively growing and adequately watered. The method overcomes the shortcomings of the previous FAO Penman method and provides values that are more consistent with actual crop water use data worldwide. Furthermore, recommendations have been developed using the FAO Penman-Monteith method with limited climatic data, thereby largely eliminating the need for any other reference evapotranspiration methods and creating a consistent and transparent basis for a globally valid standard for crop water requirement calculations.
The FAO Penman-Monteith method uses standard climatic data that can be easily measured or derived from commonly measured data. All calculation procedures have been standardized according to the available weather data and the time scale of computation. The calculation methods, as well as the procedures for estimating missing climatic data, are presented in this publication.
In the 'Kc-ETo' approach, differences in the crop canopy and aerodynamic resistance relative to the reference crop are accounted for within the crop coefficient. The Kc coefficient serves as an aggregation of the physical and physiological differences between crops. Two calculation methods to derive crop evapotranspiration from ETo are presented. The first approach integrates the relationships between evapotranspiration of the crop and the reference surface into a single Kc coefficient. In the second approach, Kc is split into two factors that separately describe the evaporation (Ke) and transpiration (Kcb) components. The selection of the Kc approach depends on the purpose of the calculation and the time step on which the calculations are to be executed.
The final chapters present procedures that can be used to make adjustments to crop coefficients to account for deviations from standard conditions, such as water and salinity stress, low plant density, environmental factors and management practices.
Examples demonstrate the various calculation procedures throughout the publication. Most of the computations, namely all those required for the reference evapotranspiration and the single crop coefficient approach, can be performed using a pocket calculator, calculation sheets and the numerous tables given in the publication. The user may also build computer algorithms, either using a spreadsheet or any programming language.
These guidelines are intended to provide guidance to project managers, consultants, irrigation engineers, hydrologists, agronomists, meteorologists and students for the calculation of reference and crop evapotranspiration. They can be used for computing crop water requirements for both. irrigated and rainfed agriculture, and for computing water consumption by agricultural and natural vegetation.