Irrigation reduces the negative effect of global warming on winter wheat yield and greenhouse gas intensity

Jiazhen Li, Wenxu Dong, Oene Oenema, Tuo Chen, Chunsheng Hu*, Haijing Yuan, Liying Zhao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Global warming may exacerbate drought, decrease crop yield and affect greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in semi-arid regions. However, the interactive effects of increases in temperature and water availability on winter wheat yield and GHG emissions in semi-arid climates are not well-understood. Here, we report on a two-year field experiment that examined the effects of a mean soil temperature increase of ~2 °C (at 5 cm depth) with and without additional irrigation on wheat yield and GHG emissions. Infrared heaters were placed above the crop canopy at a height of 1.8 m to simulate warming. Fluxes of CH4, CO2 and N2O were measured using closed static chamber technique once per week during the wheat growing seasons. Warming decreased wheat yield by 28% in the relatively dry year of 2015, while supplemental irrigation nullified the warming effect completely. Warming did not alter the wheat yield significantly in the relatively wet year of 2016, but supplemental irrigation with no warming decreased the wheat yield by 25%. Warming increased CO2 emissions by 28% and CH4 uptake by 24% and tended to decrease N2O emissions. Supplemental irrigation increased N2O emissions but had little effect on CO2 emissions and CH4 uptake. Evidently, warming and supplemental irrigation had interactive effects on wheat yield, GHG emissions and GHG emissions intensity. Precision irrigation appears to be a means of simultaneously increasing wheat yield and reducing GHG emissions under warming conditions in semi-arid areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)290-299
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Global warming potential
  • Greenhouse gas intensity
  • Greenhouse gases
  • Irrigation
  • Warming
  • Wheat yield

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