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Development and evaluation of an agricultural drought index by harnessing soil moisture and weather data

Ajaz, Ali
Taghvaeian, Saleh
Khand, Kul
Gowda, Prasanna H.
Moorhead, Jerry E.

A new agricultural drought index was developed for monitoring drought impacts on agriculture in Oklahoma. This new index, called the Soil Moisture Evapotranspiration Index (SMEI), estimates the departure of aggregated root zone moisture from reference evapotranspiration. The SMEI was estimated at five locations across Oklahoma representing different climates. The results showed good agreement with existing soil moisture-based (SM) and meteorological drought indices. In addition, the SMEI had improved performance compared to other indices in capturing the effects of temporal and spatial variations in drought. The relationship with crop production is a key characteristic of any agricultural drought index. The correlations between winter wheat production and studied drought indices estimated during the growing period were investigated. The correlation coefficients were largest for SMEI (r > 0.9) during the critical crop growth stages when compared to other drought indices, and r decreased by moving from semi-arid to more humid regions across Oklahoma. Overall, the results suggest that the SMEI can be used effectively for monitoring the effects of drought on agriculture in Oklahoma.