In this article, we estimated the alpha parameter of the Priestley–Taylor model under rain-fed conditions. This study was conducted in an oat crop, from 7 September to 22 October 2009, in a region of subhumid plains (Tandil, Argentina). An energy balance station was installed within the experimental field to monitor its development. The alpha parameter value obtained was 1.41 ± 0.01, which led to an overestimation of the evapotranspiration of just 2% and a relative error in estimating evapotranspiration of 8%. The results suggest that the alpha parameter obtained is adequate in estimating the evapotranspiration of oat crops or similar crops in subhumid plains of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.