A combined model approach to optimize surface irrigation practice: SWAP and WinSRFR

Seyed Abdollah Alavi*, Abd Ali Naseri, Henk Ritzema, Jos van Dam, Petra Hellegers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Surface irrigation worldwide exhibits low efficiency due to excessively deep percolation and runoff. To optimize surface irrigation practice, two questions must be answered simultaneously: when to irrigate and how to irrigate (what stream size to use and for how long) to meet crop water requirements. Current surface irrigation optimization models are one-dimensional, meaning they can only simulate surface water flow, neglecting subsurface flow. They therefore indicate only how to irrigate, not when to irrigate. Furthermore, the required depth of irrigation is needed as input data for optimization, though this parameter is difficult to establish accurately. In addition, the effects of different irrigation practices on crop transpiration and yield, and variations in these across an irrigated field, are unknown. The present study adopts two one-dimensional simulation models – WinSRFR (for surface flow) and SWAP (for subsurface flow) – to determine when and how best to irrigate in a blocked-end furrow irrigation system for sugarcane cultivation in southwestern Iran. SWAP is used to determine irrigation schedule, required irrigation depth and crop transpiration along furrows, while WinSRFR is used to determine the soil infiltration function and evaluate and optimize irrigation practice. The results of the combined model approach indicate that some 2.7 times more water is applied than required in current practice, imposing high waterlogging stress on sugarcane crops. According to the SWAP simulations, the required irrigation depth is some 75 mm and the number of irrigation applications can be reduced from 26 to 19. The irrigation optimization in WinSRFR indicates that irrigation depth can be reduced from 162 mm to 81 mm, resulting in application efficiency increasing from 47% to 92%. Furthermore, as furrow slope increases from 0.02% to 0.12%, optimized stream size decreases from 3.0 to 1.6 l/s and optimized irrigation cutoff times increase from 3.2 to 6.5 hrs. Overall, optimization of irrigation practice using the combined model approach could result in 63% water conservation and 22% higher sugarcane yield.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107741
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022


  • Application efficiency
  • Blocked-end furrow
  • Cutoff time
  • Soil infiltration
  • Stream size
  • Sugarcane


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