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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ENHANCED SYSTEM MODELS AND DECISION SUPPORT TOOLS TO OPTIMIZE WATER LIMITED AGRICULTURE

Location: Agricultural Systems Research Unit

Title: Water Resources and Agricultural Water Use in the North China Plain: Current Status and Management Options

Authors
item Fang, Quanxiao -
item Ma, Liwang
item Green, Timothy
item Yu, Qiang -
item Wang, T -
item Ahuja, Lajpat

Submitted to: Agricultural Water Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 12, 2010
Publication Date: January 12, 2010
Citation: Fang, Q., Ma, L., Green, T.R., Yu, Q., Wang, T.D., Ahuja, L.R. 2010. Water Resources and Agricultural Water Use in the North China Plain: Current Status and Management Options. Agricultural Water Management. 97(8):1102-1116. Available: doi:10.1016/j.agwat.2010.01.008.

Interpretive Summary: Serious water deficits with deteriorating environmental quality are threatening agricultural sustainability in the North China Plain (NCP). This paper addresses spatial and temporal availability of water resources in the NCP, and identifies the effects of soil management, irrigation and crop genetic improvement on agricultural water use efficiency (WUE). Better irrigation and soil nutrient (mainly nitrogen) management are the focal issues in the NCP for enhancing WUE, which are shown to increase WUE by 10-25% in a wheat-maize double cropping system. Crop breeding has also contributed to the increase of WUE and will play an even greater role in the future as genetic and environmental interactions are understood better. Irrigation based on regional crop water requirements and water supplies is essential to optimizing regional WUE. Agricultural system models and remote sensing have been used to evaluate and improve current agronomic management practices for increasing WUE at field and regional scales. The current low WUE in farmer’s fields compared with experimental sites indicates that more efforts are needed to transfer water-saving technologies to the farmers. This paper also identified several knowledge gaps for further increasing WUE in the NCP by: (1) increasing scientific understanding of the effects of agronomic management on WUE across various soil and climate conditions; (2) quantifying the interaction between soil water and nitrogen in water-limited agriculture for improving both water and nitrogen-use efficiency; (3) adopting precise irrigation based on real-time monitoring of water status in soil-crop systems; and (4) maximizing regional WUE by managing water resources and allocation at regional scale.

Technical Abstract: Serious water deficits with deteriorating environmental quality are threatening agricultural sustainability in the North China Plain (NCP). This paper addresses spatial and temporal availability of water resources in the NCP, and identifies the effects of soil management, irrigation and crop genetic improvement on water use efficiency (WUE), and then discusses the knowledge gaps and research priorities to further improve WUE. Better irrigation and soil nutrient (mainly nitrogen) management are the focal issues in the NCP for enhancing WUE, which are shown to increase WUE by 10-25% in a wheat-maize double cropping system. Crop breeding has also contributed to the increase of WUE and will play an even greater role in the future as genetic and environmental interactions are understood better. Irrigation based on regional crop water requirements and water supplies is essential to optimizing regional WUE. Agricultural system models and remote sensing have been used to evaluate and improve current agronomic management practices for increasing WUE at field and regional scales. The current low WUE in farmer’s fields compared with experimental sites indicates that more efforts are needed to transfer water-saving technologies to the farmers. This review also identified several knowledge gaps for further increasing WUE in the NCP by: (1) increasing scientific understanding of the effects of agronomic management on WUE across various soil and climate conditions; (2) quantifying the interaction between soil water and nitrogen in water-limited agriculture for improving both water and nitrogen-use efficiency; (3) adopting precise irrigation based on real-time monitoring of water status in soil-crop systems; and (4) maximizing regional WUE by managing water resources and allocation at regional scale.

Last Modified: 8/29/2014
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