Effect of irrigation techniques and strategies on water footprint of growing crops

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Abebe Demissie Chukalla, Maarten S. Krol and Arjen Y. Y. Hoekstra, University of Twente, Enschede, 7500, Netherlands
Reducing the water footprint (WF) of growing crops, the largest water user and a significant contributor to the WF of many consumer products, plays a significant role in integrated and sustainable water management. The water footprint for growing crop is accounted by relating the crop yield with the corresponding consumptive water use (CWU), which both can be adjusted by measures that affect the crop growth and root-zone soil water balance. This study explored the scope for reducing the water footprint of irrigated crops by experimenting set of field level technical and managerial measures: (i) irrigation technologies (Furrow, sprinkler, drip and sub-surface drip), (ii) irrigation strategies (full and a range of sustained and controlled deficit) and (iii) field management options (zero, organic and synthetic mulching). Ranges of cases were also considered: (a) Arid and semi-arid environment (b) Loam and Sandy-loam soil types and (c) for Potato, Wheat and Maize crops; under (c) wet, normal and dry years. AquaCrop, the water driven crop growth and soil water balance model, offered the opportunity to systematically experiment these measures on water consumption and yield. Further, the green and blue water footprints of growing crop corresponding to each measure were computed by separating the root zone fluxes of the AquaCrop output into the green and blue soil water stocks and their corresponding fluxes. Results showed that in arid environment reduction in irrigation supply, CWU and WF up to 300 mm, 80 mm and 75 m3/tonne respectively can be achieved for Maize by a combination of organic mulching and drip technology with controlled deficit irrigation strategies (10-20-30-40% deficit with reference to the full irrigation requirement). These reductions come with a yield drop of 0.54 tonne/ha. In the same environment under the absence of mulching practice, the sub-surface drip perform better in reducing CWU and WF of irrigated crops followed by drip and furrow irrigation technique. This rank though changes in non-moisture limiting condition (wet year) drip performing better in reducing the WF of growing crops than sub-surface drip. It was observed that with all range of irrigation techniques, strategies and field management practices there is more room in reducing the WF of growing crops in loam than sandy-loam soil.