Water productivity analysis of irrigated crops in Sirsa district, India

R. Singh, J.C. van Dam, R.A. Feddes

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Water productivity (WP) expresses the value or benefit derived from the use of water, and includes essential aspects of water management such as production for arid and semi-arid regions. A profound WP analysis was carried out at five selected farmer fields (two for wheat¿rice and three for wheat¿cotton) in Sirsa district, India during the agricultural year 2001¿02. The ecohydrological soil¿water¿atmosphere¿plant (SWAP) model, including detailed crop simulations in combination with field observations, was used to determine the required hydrological variables such as transpiration, evapotranspiration and percolation, and biophysical variables such as dry matter or grain yields. The use of observed soil moisture and salinity profiles was found successful to determine indirectly the soil hydraulic parameters through inverse modelling. Considerable spatial variation in WP values was observed not only for different crops but also for the same crop. For instance, the WPET, expressed in terms of crop grain (or seed) yield per unit amount of evapotranspiration, varied from 1.22 to 1.56 kg m¿3 for wheat among different farmer fields. The corresponding value for cotton varied from 0.09 to 0.31 kg m¿3. This indicates a considerable variation and scope for improvements in water productivity. The average WPET (kg m¿3) was 1.39 for wheat, 0.94 for rice and 0.23 for cotton, and corresponds to average values for the climatic and growing conditions in Northwest India. Including percolation in the analysis, i.e. crop grain (or seed) yield per unit amount of evapotranspiration plus percolation, resulted in average WPETQ (kg m¿3) values of 1.04 for wheat, 0.84 for rice and 0.21 for cotton. Factors responsible for low WP include the relative high amount of evaporation into evapotranspiration especially for rice, and percolation from field irrigations. Improving agronomic practices such as aerobic rice cultivation and soil mulching will reduce this non-beneficial loss of water through evaporation, and subsequently will improve the WPET at field scale. For wheat, the simulated water and salt limited yields were 20¿60% higher than measured yields, and suggest substantial nutrition, pest, disease and/or weed stresses. Improved crop management in terms of timely sowing, optimum nutrient supply, and better pest, disease and weed control for wheat will multiply its WPET by a factor of 1.5! Moreover, severe water stress was observed on cotton (relative transpiration <0.65) during the kharif (summer) season, which resulted in 1.4¿3.3 times lower water and salt limited yields compared with simulated potential yields. Benefits in terms of increased cotton yields and improved water productivity will be gained by ensuring irrigation supply at cotton fields, especially during the dry years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-278
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • soil hydraulic-properties
  • parameter-estimation
  • flow
  • performance
  • evaporation
  • model
  • rice
  • conductivity
  • management
  • simulation

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