A Comparative Study on Empirical Methods for Estimating Effective Rainfall for Rainfed Wheat Crop in Different Climates of Iran

Document Type : Full length article


1 Ph.D. Student of Agrometeorology, Meteorological Division, Dept. of Irrigation and Reclamation Engineering, College of Soil and Water Engineering, University of Tehran

2 Associate Prof., Meteorological Division, Dept. of Irrigation and Reclamation Engineering, College of Soil and Water Engineering, University of Tehran

3 Prof. in Meteorological Division, Dept. of Irrigation and Reclamation Engineering, College of Soil and Water Engineering, University of Tehran


Extended Abstract
Among factors affecting crop production, especially rainfed crops, the rainfall and its
distribution during crop season have a significant role. In addition, all the precipitation that falls
during the growing season does not have the same effect on crop yield, and is not used in
agriculture. So, quantification of Effective Rainfall (ER), as a portion of the precipitation which
is stored in plant root zone and meets the needs of evapotranspiration requirements in different
climatic zones is an essential component of water resources in rainfed wheat areas. Effective
rainfall used in this study is “That portion of the total precipitation on the cropped area, during a
specific time period, which is available to meet the potential evapotranspiration requirements in
the cropped area. A precise estimation of effective rainfall is still needed not only for planning
and management of rainfed wheat production, but also for risk management strategies in farms.
Since a precise estimation of effective rainfall is necessary for increasing agricultural
production, major challenge is to design a soil-water balance model that provides more accurate
calculation of effective rainfall. The main goal of this study was to compare different effective
rainfall estimation methods for rainfed wheat.
In this study, we adopted a two-layer soil–water balance (SWB) model. In the model,not only
the portion of precipitation retained on root zone in current day is included, but a portion of the
previous day’s precipitation saved between the previous and current root-zone development is
also added to the effective rainfall of the current day. In the model, the soil reservoir is divided
into two layers;
1) an active layer in which roots are presented at any given time, t, and from which both
moisture extraction and drainage could occur;
2) immediately below the active layer, there is a passive layer of depth (maximum root depthroot
depth attained any day after sowing) from which only drainage would occur.
Because of a high cost associated with direct measurements, estimate of effective rainfall
component is often based on empirical models. The aim of this study is to compare empirical
methods of effective rainfall estimation with a proposed method based on soil-water balance
equation. Following, six methods have been used to calculate effective rainfall for 21 agrometeorological
stations of Iran:
• Renfro Equation method
• U.S. Bureau of Reclamation method
• Potential Evapotranspiration/Precipitation Ratio method
• USDA-SCS method
• FAO method
• TR21/SCS method
For this purpose, four groups of data (including weather data, phenological data, soil
characteristics, and wheat yield data) were used relevant to the 21 agro-meteorological stations
representing arid, semi-arid, semi-humid, and humid regions of the country. Before using the
weather data for estimating effective rainfall, data reconstruction was performed using Normalratio
method (where required).
Results and Discussion
The results of calculating the effective rainfall for rainfed wheat crop at the 21 agrometeorological
stations, using selected methods and comparing the different methods of
estimating effective rainfall, showed that: 1) in spite of data limitations, the new procedure had
appropriate performance in estimation of that part of wheat yield which could only be explained
by effective rainfall. Therefore, this method can be used as an efficient tool in computer-based
programs developed for agricultural risk management of rainfed area. 2) It has been observed
that the higher the values of de Martonne Aridity Index, the lower is value of “effective
rainfall/rainfall during the cropping season”. 3) The best result for arid and semi-arid climates
was obtained by PET/P method (d-index= 0.8), and for semi-humid and humid climates by FAO
method (respectively 0.9 and 0.8), and USDA-SCS method (respectively 0.8 and 0.7).
A soil water balance model for estimating effective rainfall is applied for evaluating the
accuracy of six established effective rainfall estimation methods. 
Renfro Equation provides an initial approximation based on aridity factor. The accuracy of
this method is very low and it is exclusively empirical. USBR method considers only the runoff.
The accuracy of this method is low and is not suitable for wide application. PET/Precipitation
Ratio method takes the first approximation by runoff, soil and aridity factor. This method is
suitable for preliminary plans, and is more effective than other methods, nearly in all regions.
USDA- SCS method takes the first approximation of soil and crop beside aridity factor. This
method is suitable for those areas that have low intensity of rainfall and high infiltration rate.