Prediction of plant water status in almond and walnut trees using a continuous leaf monitoring system

R. Dhillon, F. Rojo, S. K. Upadhyaya, J. Roach, R. Coates, M. Delwiche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Persistent drought conditions in the Central valley of California demands efficient irrigation scheduling tools such as precision or variable rate irrigation (VRI). To assist VRI scheduling, an experiment was conducted in almond and walnut orchards using a sensor system called ‘leaf monitor’, which was developed at UC Davis to detect plant water status. A Modified Crop Water Stress Index (MCWSI) was calculated to quantify plant water status using leaf temperature and environmental data collected by the leaf monitor. This technique also took into account spatio-temporal variability of plant water status. Stem water potential (SWP), which is considered a standard method for determining plant water stress (PWS), was also measured simultaneously. Relationships between measured deficit stem water potential (DSWP), which is the difference between SWP and the saturated baseline, and MCWSI were developed for both crops based on data collected during the 2013 and 2014 growing seasons. A linear relationship was found in the case of walnut crop with a coefficient of determination (r2) value of 0.67. A quadratic relationship was found in the case of almonds with a coefficient of multiple determination (R2) value of 0.75. Moreover, these results highlighted that at lower PWS of below 0.5 MPa of DSWP, almonds crops did not show any decrease in transpiration rate. However, when the stress level exceeded 0.5 MPa of DSWP, transpiration rate tended to decrease. On the other hand, walnut crop showed decrease in transpiration rate even at low PWS of below 0.5 MPa of DSWP. Temporal variability was noticed in PWS as it was found that coefficients of saturation baseline used for MCWSI method changed significantly throughout the season. MCWSI values estimated before an irrigation event was used to calculate the irrigation amount for low frequency variable rate irrigation (VRI) based on the relationship found between MCWSI and DSWP, and VRI led to an average 39% reduction in water usage as compared to the fixed 100% ET replacement irrigation method for all trees. Based on the results, leaf monitor showed potential for use as an irrigation scheduling tool.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-745
Number of pages23
JournalPrecision Agriculture
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 Aug 2019


  • Irrigation scheduling
  • Leaf monitor
  • Modified CWSI
  • Nut crops
  • Stem water potential (SWP)
  • Variable rate irrigation (VRI)


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