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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Soil Management and Sugarbeet Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #388017

Research Project: Management Practices for Long Term Productivity of Great Plains Agriculture

Location: Soil Management and Sugarbeet Research

Title: Sustainable irrigation based on co-regulation of soil water supply and atmospheric evaporative demand

item ZHANG, JINWEN - University Of Illinois
item PENG, BIN - University Of Illinois
item PAN, MING - University Of Illinois
item ZHOU, WANG - Princeton University
item JIANG, CHONGYA - University Of Illinois
item KIMM, HYUNGSUK - University Of Illinois
item FRANZ, TRENTON - University Of Nebraska
item GRANT, ROBERT - University Of Alberta
item YANG, YI - University Of Illinois
item RUDNIK, DARAN - University Of Nebraska
item HEEREN, DEREK - University Of Nebraska
item SUYKER, ANDREW - University Of Nebraska
item BAUERLE, WILLIAM - Colorado State University
item Miner, Grace

Submitted to: Nature Communications
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/13/2021
Publication Date: 9/20/2021
Citation: Zhang, J., Peng, B., Pan, M., Zhou, W., Jiang, C., Kimm, H., Franz, T., Grant, R., Yang, Y., Rudnik, D., Heeren, D., Suyker, A., Bauerle, W., Miner, G.S. 2021. Sustainable irrigation based on co-regulation of soil water supply and atmospheric evaporative demand. Nature Communications. 12. Article e5549.

Interpretive Summary: Increasing pressures on the world's water supplies underscores the need for major advances in irrigation water use. A team of university and USDA scientists from the United States and Canada investigated the potential to improve irrigation efficiency through 'plant centric' management. Using an ecosystem model coupled with data from 12 sites in Nebraska, they found that 'plant centric' irrigation strategies not only lowered water use, but also increased profitability, while maintaining yields. As satellite technologies advance, there is the possibility for widespread application of 'plant centric' approaches to irrigation, which currently accounts for 70% of global surface and ground water withdrawals.

Technical Abstract: Irrigation is an important adaptation to reduce crop yield loss due to water stress from both soil water deficit (low soil moisture) and atmospheric aridity (high vapor pressure deficit, VPD). Traditionally, irrigation has primarily focused on soil water deficit. Observational evidence demonstrates that stomatal conductance is co-regulated by soil moisture and VPD from water supply and demand aspects. Here we use a validated hydraulically-driven ecosystem model to reproduce the co-regulation pattern. Specifically, we propose a plant-centric irrigation scheme considering water supply-demand dynamics (SDD), and compare it with soil-moisture-based irrigation scheme (management allowable depletion, MAD) for continuous maize cropping systems in Nebraska, United States. We find that, under current climate conditions, the plant-centric SDD irrigation scheme combining soil moisture and VPD, could significantly reduce irrigation water use (-24.0%) while maintaining crop yields, and increase economic profits (+11.2%) and irrigation water productivity (+25.2%) compared with MAD, thus SDD could significantly improve water sustainability.