Increasing pressure over water resources in the western U.S. is currently forcing alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) producers to adopt water-saving irrigation techniques. Crop yield forecasting tools can be used to develop smart irrigation scheduling methods that can be used to estimate the future effects of a given irrigation amount applied during a current irrigation event on yield. In this work, a linear model and a random forest model were used to estimate the yield of irrigated alfalfa crops in northern Nevada. It was found that water (rain + irrigation), the occurrence of extreme temperatures, and wind have a greater effect on crop yield. Other variables that accounted for the photoperiod and the dormant period were also included in the model and are also important. The linear model had the best performance with an R2 of 0.854. On the other hand, the R2 value for the random forest was 0.793. The linear model showed a good response to water variability; therefore, it is a good model to consider for use as an irrigation decision support system. However, unlike the linear model, the random forest model can capture non-linear relationships occurring between the crop, water, and the atmosphere, and its results may be enhanced by including more data for its training.

Quintero, D. D., Andrade-Rodriguez, M. A., Cholula, U. & Solomon, J. A 2023, Machine Learning Approach for the Estimation of Alfalfa Hay Crop Yield in Northern Nevada, AgriEngineering 5(4), 1943–1954

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