A subsurface drip irrigation study with cotton used canopy temperature to determine signals for irrigation control during 2002–2004. Timing of irrigation applications was controlled by the biologically identified optimal temperature interactive console (BIOTIC) protocol, which used stress time (ST) and a crop-specific optimum temperature to indicate water stress. ST was the cumulative daily time quantity when cotton canopy temperature exceeded 28°C. STs between 5.5 and 8.5 h in 1 h increments were irrigation signal criteria, which produced different irrigation regimes. This investigation examined the association among ST, daily average canopy temperature (Tc), canopy and air temperature difference (Tc-Ta), and the relative crop water stress index (RCWSI) including their relationship with lint yield. Number of irrigation signals decreased linearly with ST at the rate of -10.2 and -8.7 irrigations per 1 h increase of ST in 2003 and 2004. There were significant curvilinear relationships between ST and the average daily stress on days with irrigation signals and for days without irrigation signals across years. The percentage of positive daily (Tc-Ta) values increased with ST level. ST and Tc were positively related in all irrigation signal treatments with 5.5 and 6.5 h being significant in 2003 and 2004. Yield declined at the rate of 343 kg lint/ha for each 1 h increase of ST for days with irrigation signals. ST, mathematically the most simple of the canopy temperature-based parameters, provided the most consistent estimate of crop water stress and correlation with lint yield. The power of ST to characterize water stress effects on crop productivity evolves from being an integrated value of time while canopy temperature exceeds a physiologically based threshold value.