Impact of capillary rise and recirculation on simulated crop yields

J.G. Kroes*, I. Supit, J.C. van Dam, P.E.V. van Walsum, H.M. Mulder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Upward soil water flow is a vital supply of water to crops. The purpose of this study is to determine if upward flow and recirculated percolation water can be quantified separately, and to determine the contribution of capillary rise and recirculated water to crop yield and groundwater recharge. Therefore, we performed impact analyses of various soil water flow regimes on grass, maize and potato yields in the Dutch delta. Flow regimes are characterized by soil composition and groundwater depth and derived from a national soil database. The intermittent occurrence of upward flow and its influence on crop growth are simulated with the combined SWAP-WOFOST model using various boundary conditions. Case studies and model experiments are used to illustrate the impact of upward flow on yield and crop growth. This impact is clearly present in situations with relatively shallow groundwater levels (85 % of the Netherlands), where capillary rise is a well-known source of upward flow; but also in free-draining situations the impact of upward flow is considerable. In the latter case recirculated percolation water is the flow source. To make this impact explicit we implemented a synthetic modelling option that stops upward flow from reaching the root zone, without inhibiting percolation. Such a hypothetically moisture-stressed situation compared to a natural one in the presence of shallow groundwater shows mean yield reductions for grassland, maize and potatoes of respectively 26, 3 and 14 % or respectively about 3.7, 0.3 and 1.5 t dry matter per hectare. About half of the withheld water behind these yield effects comes from recirculated percolation water as occurs in free-drainage conditions and the other half comes from increased upward capillary rise. Soil water and crop growth modelling should consider both capillary rise from groundwater and recirculation of percolation water as this improves the accuracy of yield simulations. This also improves the accuracy of the simulated groundwater recharge: neglecting these processes causes overestimates of 17 % for grassland and 46 % for potatoes, or 63 and 34 mm yr−1, respectively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2937-2952
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2018


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