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Alfalfa Water Use and Yield under Different Sprinkler Irrigation Regimes in North Arid Regions of China

Research Center for Grassland Ecology and Resources, Beijing Forestry University, No. 35 Tsinghua East Road, Beijing 100083, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2017, 9(8), 1380;
Received: 27 April 2017 / Revised: 26 July 2017 / Accepted: 2 August 2017 / Published: 4 August 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Water Resources Management)
PDF [834 KB, uploaded 4 August 2017]


Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is one of the major crops grown in Northern China in recent years, however, the current serious water shortage conditions present a challenge to the growth of this crop, especially if efficient use of water is considered in forage production for sustainability. This study aimed to evaluate alfalfa productivity and water use efficiency (WUE) under different sprinkler irrigation levels. This experiment was conducted at Shiyanghe Experimental Station for Water-Saving in Agriculture and Ecology of China Agricultural University in Wuwei, Gansu, China, over a period of two years. There were three irrigation treatments: A1: 100% measured evapotranspiration (ETc) of alfalfa; A2: irrigation amount was 66% of A1; A3: irrigation amount was 33% of A1; and a control of A4: no irrigation during the growing season. A randomized block design with three replications were applied. The results showed that the ETc and forage yield of alfalfa decreased, while WUE and crude protein (CP) increased with the decreasing irrigation amounts. The seasonal average ETc and yield ranged from 412 mm to 809 mm and from 11,577 to 18,636 kg/ha, respectively, under different irrigation levels. The highest yields were obtained from the first growth period in all treatments in both years, due to the winter irrigation and the longest growth period. Alfalfa grown under lesser irrigation treatment conditions had higher variability in ETc and yield, mainly due to the variability in the amount of rainfall during the growth period. The seasonal average WUE of treatments ranged from 22.78 to 26.84 kg/(mm·ha), and the highest WUE was obtained at the first growth period, regardless of treatments. Seasonal average CP content ranged from 18.99% to 22.99%. A significant linear relationship was found between yield and ETc or irrigation amount, and the fitting results varied between growth periods and years. The present results also implied that winter irrigation provided the space for saving water and should be applied at the end of each growing season to fill the soil profile, and to maintain a greater yield in the next growing season. During the growing season, more irrigation should be concentrated in the early growth period, especially in the second growth period. View Full-Text
Keywords: alfalfa; yield; WUE; sprinkler irrigation alfalfa; yield; WUE; sprinkler irrigation

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Li, Y.; Su, D. Alfalfa Water Use and Yield under Different Sprinkler Irrigation Regimes in North Arid Regions of China. Sustainability 2017, 9, 1380.

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