Remote-sensing techniques can detect and up-scale leaf-level physiological responses to large areas, and provide significant and reliable information on water use and irrigation management. The objectives of this study were to screen leaf-level physiological changes that occur during the cyclic irrigation of pecan orchards to determine which responses best represent changes in moisture status of plants and link plant physiological changes to remotely sensed surface reflectance data derived from the Landsat Thematic Mapper and Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+). The study was conducted simultaneously on two southern New Mexico mature pecan orchards. For both orchards, plant physiological responses and remotely sensed surface reflectance data were collected from trees that were either well watered or in water deficit. Remotely sensed variables included reflectance in band 1, the ratio between shortwave infrared (SWIR) bands (B5:B7), the normalized difference vegetation index, and SWIR moisture indices. Midday stem water potential (Ψ smd) was the best performing leaf-level physiological response variable for detecting moisture status in pecans. The B5:B7 ratio positively and significantly correlated with Ψ smd in five of six irrigation cycles while multiple linear regression weighted with six remotely sensed surface reflectance variables revealed a significant relationship with moisture status in all cycles in both orchards (R 2 > 0.73). Because changes in the B5:B7 band ratio and multiple regression of spectral variables correlate with the moisture status of pecan orchards, we conclude that remotely sensed data hold promise for detecting the moisture status of pecans.
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