SWAT, a physically-based, hydrological model simulates crop growth, soil water and groundwater movement, and transport of sediment and nutrients at both the process and watershed scales. While the different versions of SWAT have been widely used throughout the world for agricultural and water resources applications, little has been done to test the performance, variability, and transferability of the parameters in the crop growth, soil water, and groundwater modules in an integrated way with multiple sets of field experimental data at the process scale. Using an multiple years of field experimental data of winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in the irrigation district of the Yellow River Basin, this paper assesses the performance of the plant-soil-groundwater modules and the variability and transferability of SWAT2000. Comparison of the simulated results by SWAT to the observations showed that SWAT performed quite unsatisfactorily in LAI predictions during the senescence stage, in yield predictions, and in soil-water estimation under dry soil-profile conditions. The unsatisfactory performance in LAI prediction might be attributed to over-simplified senescence modeling; in yield prediction to the improper computation of the harvest index; and in soil water under dry conditions to the exclusion of groundwater evaporation from the soil water balance in SWAT. In this paper, improvements in crop growth, soil water, and groundwater modules in SWAT were implemented. The saturated soil profile was coupled to the oscillating groundwater table. A variable evaporation coefficient taking into account soil water deficit index, groundwater depth, and crop root depth was used to replace the fixed coefficient in computing groundwater evaporation. The soil water balance included the groundwater evaporation. The modifications improved simulations of crop evapotranspiration and biomass as well as soil water dynamics under dry soil-profile conditions. The evaluation shows that the crop growth and soil water components of SWAT could be further refined to better simulate the hydrology of agricultural watersheds. ?? 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.