Increasing water productivity of irrigated crops under limited water supply at field scale

M. Vazifedoust, J.C. van Dam, R.A. Feddes, M. Feizi

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73 Citations (Scopus)


Borkhar district is located in an and to semi-arid region in Iran and regularly faces widespread drought. Given current water scarcity, the limited available water should be used as efficient and productive as possible. To explore on-farm strategies which result in higher economic gains and water productivity RP), a physically based agrohydrological model, Soil Water Atmosphere Plant (SWAP), was calibrated and validated using intensive measured data at eight selected farmer fields (wheat, fodder maize, sunflower and sugar beet) in the Borkhar district, Iran during the agricultural year 2004 - 2005. The WP values for the main crops were computed using the SWAP simulated water balance components, i.e. transpiration T, evapotranspiration ET, irrigation 1, and the marketable yield Y-M in terms in terms of YMT-1, YMET-1 and YMI-1. The average WP, expressed as $ T-1 (US $ m(-3)) was 0.19 for wheat, 0.5 for fodder maize, 0.06 for sunflower and 0.38 for sugar beet. This indicated that fodder maize provides the highest economic benefit in the Borkhar irrigation district. Soil evaporation caused the average WP values, expressed as Y-M ET-1 (kg m(-3)), to be significantly lower than the average WP, expressed as Y-M T-1, i.e. about 27% for wheat, 11% for fodder maize, 12% for sunflower and 0.18 for sugar beet. Furthermore, due to percolation from root zone and stored moisture content in the root zone, the average WP values, expressed as Y-M I-1 (kg m(-3)), had a 24 - 42% reduction as compared with VIP, expressed as Y-M ET-1. The results indicated that during the limited water supply period, on-farm strategies like deficit irrigation scheduling and reduction of the cultivated area can result in higher economic gains. Improved irrigation practices in terms of irrigation timing and amount, increased WP in terms of Y-M I-1 (kg m(-3)) by a factor of 1.5 for wheat and maize, 1.3 for sunflower and 1.1 for sugar beet. Under water shortage conditions, reduction of the cultivated area yielded higher water productivity values as compared to deficit irrigation. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-102
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • hydraulic conductivity

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