Surface energy budget investigations of a range of agricultural surfaces in France and the African Sahel demonstrate consistent linear relationships between daily totals of sensible heat flux (Hd) and the difference between a once-a-day radiative measurement of surface temperature and the maximum air temperature at a height of 2 m. Surface temperature was measured with nadir-viewing radiothermometers near 1400 h (LST). The average residual standard error in the estimate of Hd was 0.6 mm of equivalent evaporation. An equation for the daily sensible heat flux (Hd) having a form analogous to Dalton's evaporation formula was derived from surface energy budget considerations. This equation discriminates well between relatively homogeneous, low-cover surfaces where surface exchange characteristics can be assumed to be simple fractions of the height of the roughness elements. By contrast, data from two other crops with discontinuous plant cover suggest a much reduced sensitivity to canopy architecture. This result is not unreasonable if scalar transport were controlled by the thermal conductivity of a layer of still air close to ground level which is sheltered by the plant canopy. There is scope for further experimental and theoretical work on this matter.