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Water 2016, 8(10), 473; doi:10.3390/w8100473

Estimating Water Footprints of Vegetable Crops: Influence of Growing Season, Solar Radiation Data and Functional Unit

1
Department of Plant Production and Soil Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X20, Hatfield 0028, South Africa
2
Citrus Research International, P.O. Box 28, Nelspruit 1200, South Africa
3
CSIRO Agriculture, PMB Aitkenvale, Townsville 4814, Queensland, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Arjen Y. Hoekstra, Ashok K. Chapagain and Pieter R. van Oel
Received: 24 June 2016 / Revised: 19 September 2016 / Accepted: 8 October 2016 / Published: 22 October 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Footprint Assessment)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [4517 KB, uploaded 22 October 2016]   |  

Abstract

Water footprint (WF) accounting as proposed by the Water Footprint Network (WFN) can potentially provide important information for water resource management, especially in water scarce countries relying on irrigation to help meet their food requirements. However, calculating accurate WFs of short-season vegetable crops such as carrots, cabbage, beetroot, broccoli and lettuce presented some challenges. Planting dates and inter-annual weather conditions impact WF results. Joining weather datasets of just rainfall, minimum and maximum temperature with ones that include solar radiation and wind-speed affected crop model estimates and WF results. The functional unit selected can also have a major impact on results. For example, WFs according to the WFN approach do not account for crop residues used for other purposes, like composting and animal feed. Using yields in dry matter rather than fresh mass also impacts WF metrics, making comparisons difficult. To overcome this, using the nutritional value of crops as a functional unit can connect water use more directly to potential benefits derived from different crops and allow more straightforward comparisons. Grey WFs based on nitrogen only disregards water pollution caused by phosphates, pesticides and salinization. Poor understanding of the fate of nitrogen complicates estimation of nitrogen loads into the aquifer. View Full-Text
Keywords: water management; Steenkoppies Aquifer; Carrots (Daucus carota); beetroot (Beta vulgaris); cabbage and broccoli (Brassica oleracea); lettuce (Lactuca sativa); maize (Zea mays); wheat (Triticum aestivum) water management; Steenkoppies Aquifer; Carrots (Daucus carota); beetroot (Beta vulgaris); cabbage and broccoli (Brassica oleracea); lettuce (Lactuca sativa); maize (Zea mays); wheat (Triticum aestivum)
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Roux, B.L.; van der Laan, M.; Vahrmeijer, T.; Annandale, J.G.; Bristow, K.L. Estimating Water Footprints of Vegetable Crops: Influence of Growing Season, Solar Radiation Data and Functional Unit. Water 2016, 8, 473.

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