FarmCan: a physical, statistical, and machine learning model to forecast crop water deficit for farms

Sara Sadri*, James S. Famiglietti, Ming Pan, Hylke E. Beck, Aaron Berg, Eric F. Wood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


In the coming decades, a changing climate, the loss of high-quality land, the slowing in the annual yield of cereals, and increasing fertilizer use indicate that better agricultural water management strategies are needed. In this study, we designed FarmCan, a novel, robust remote sensing and machine learning (ML) framework to forecast farms' needed daily crop water quantity or needed irrigation (NI). We used a diverse set of simulated and observed near-real-time (NRT) remote sensing data coupled with a random forest (RF) algorithm and inputs about farm-specific situations to predict the amount and timing of evapotranspiration (ET), potential ET (PET), soil moisture (SM), and root zone soil moisture (RZSM). Our case study of four farms in the Canadian Prairies Ecozone (CPE) shows that 8 d composite precipitation (P) has the highest correlation with changes (Δ) of RZSM and SM. In contrast, 8 d PET and 8 d ET do not offer a strong correlation with 8 d P. Using R2, root mean square error (RMSE), and Kling-Gupta efficiency (KGE) indicators, our algorithm could reasonably calculate daily NI up to 14 d in advance. From 2015 to 2020, the R2 values between predicted and observed 8 d ET and 8 d PET were the highest (80 % and 54 %, respectively). The 8 d NI also had an average R2 of 68%. The KGE of the 8 d ET and 8 d PET in four study farms showed an average of 0.71 and 0.50, respectively, with an average KGE of 0.62. FarmCan can be used in any region of the world to help stakeholders make decisions during prolonged periods of drought or waterlogged conditions, schedule cropping and fertilization, and address local government policy concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5373-5390
Number of pages18
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 27 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Sara Sadri et al.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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