Narrowing crop yield gaps in Ethiopia under current and future climate: A model-based exploration of intensification options and their trade-offs with the water balance

Mezegebu Getnet*, Katrien Descheemaeker, Martin K. van Ittersum, Huib Hengsdijk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In the Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia (CRV), actual productivity of most cereals is less than 3 t ha−1 associated with low input use and poor crop management. After calibrating and validating the Agricultural Production System Simulator (APSIM) using experimental data, we explored and prioritized promising intensification options for rainfed maize and wheat that enable to narrow prevailing yield gaps in the CRV, and quantified trade-offs with the water balance and gross margins. We set up a factorial simulation experiment combining Genetic x Environment x Management factors that influence crop yield and water use at field scale to simulate yield and water balance components under current and future climate scenarios (pessimistic scenario for mid-century). Varietal selection and nitrogen (N) fertilization were the most important factors contributing to yield gap closure. Although yields were maximized with N application rates up to 250 kg−1 in most soils and varieties, maximum gross margin and maximum water use efficiency (WUE) were attained at lower N rates, associated with a small yield reduction compared to the maximum. There was a trade-off between intensification and increased absolute water use through transpiration, while the water use per kg product was decreased. However, location-specific N application rates that allow producing at least 80% of the water-limited potential yield (Yw) of maize and wheat resulted in high water use efficiencies as well as favorable cost-benefit ratios. Climate change was projected to lower yield as it advanced maturity, and to result in decreased drainage and increased soil evaporation across all variety, location and management combinations for both crops. Climate change reduced crop yield by 15–25% for wheat and 2–30% for maize. We conclude that the locally-calibrated APSIM model could be used to derive key lessons from the genetic, environment and management interactions, and generate information on sustainable intensification pathways that combine narrowing yield gaps with maximizing WUE and gross margins.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108442
JournalField Crops Research
Volume278
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Crop management
  • Crop modeling
  • Gross margin
  • Water use efficiency

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