Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Crop, Soil & Environmental Sciences (PhD)

Degree Level



Crop, Soil & Environmental Sciences


Derrick Oosterhuis

Committee Member

Edward Barnes

Second Committee Member

Fred Bourland

Third Committee Member

Leo Espinoza

Fourth Committee Member

Chris Henry

Fifth Committee Member

Michele Reba


Cotton, Drought, Sensor, Soil Moisture


Soil moisture sensor use in crop production systems has the potential to give inference on plant water status for the purpose of irrigation scheduling and site-drought characterization. These processed measurements could serve as the framework on which to compile trial results across locations, thereby more accurately defining varietal yield response to drought. Still, the ability to characterize drought within a given field or initiate irrigations from these data hinge upon the ability of the instrument to characterize soil moisture at the sampled point and extrapolate that information across the landscape and time. Therefore, the objectives of this research were to: (1) test the response of the Watermark 200SS (Irrometer Company, Inc., Riverside, CA) and Decagon 10HS (Decagon Devices, Inc., Pullman, WA) to changes in water content of three dissimilar soils representing common soils in row-crop production under variable environmental conditions; (2) develop a soil moisture-based index to quantify drought stress in dryland cotton cultivar trials; and (3) determine if a limited number of soil moisture sensors deployed into a dryland cultivar trial could accurately characterize the VWC at a given point within the field and if this measurement could be extrapolated out to the field scale from the very small sphere of influence characterizing the utilized soil moisture sensors. During the 2012 and 2013 growing seasons soil moisture sensors were deployed into over 14 cotton cultivar trials across the U.S. Cotton Belt and into a water-input controlled container study. Tested sensors' inability to accurately predict container VWC emphasized the relatively small quantity of soil on which these sensors rely and the variability in soil moisture within a very limited volume. Results from the drought-index studies suggested both the Accumulated Soil Moisture Stress Index (ASMSI) and the relative reduction in evapotranspiration (1-(ETc adj/ETc)) appear to have potential in characterizing the amount of stress experienced within dryland cultivar trials. Analysis of spatial and temporal stability suggested trends between sensors were consistent, but absolute node readings varied. Optimism concerning the potential of these measurements/approaches for increasing water use efficiency is coupled with a call for more arbitrary, universal methods of measurement analysis.