The North China Plain (NCP) is the major winter wheat producing area in China. Abandonment of this crop has, however, become more and more prevalent in this region since the late 1990s. Although the underlying causes of this phenomenon remain little understood, irrigation water availability (IWA) has always been regarded as the key factor limiting winter wheat production on the NCP. The aim of this paper is to determine the role played by IWA in the abandonment of winter wheat, using evidence drawn from a case study in Cangxian County, Hebei Province. First-hand data were collected for this study from 350 households in 35 villages, using semistructured one-on-one questionnaires. Five types of irrigation water sources were defined and identified at the level of individual land plots: “ground and surface water”, “just groundwater”, “just rivers”, “just reservoirs”, and “no irrigation”. These levels correspond to a decreasing trend in the overall frequency of irrigation and thus provide a clear proxy indicator for IWA. The results from a series of multilevel multinomial models show that the higher the IWA, the less likely it is for a land plot to abandon winter wheat. Specifically, using “no irrigation” cases as a control group, the results show that land plots with more sources of irrigation water also tend to be characterized by greater IWA, including “ground and surface water” and “just groundwater”, and also have lower probabilities of abandoning winter wheat. In contrast, land plots with less IWA (less irrigation water sources), including “just reservoirs” and “just rivers”, are more likely to abandon winter wheat. The results also show that, in addition to IWA, soil quality and plot size at the plot level, as well as demographic characteristics, farm equipment, and land fragmentation at the household level and irrigation prices at the village level, all play additional significant roles in the cropping-system decisions made by farmers. A number of suggestions are made in this paper regarding policy implementation related to integrative water management and transferred water reallocation, in order to achieve the twin goals of water conservation and winter wheat production on the NCP.
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