Improving Agricultural Water Productivity to Ensure Food Security under Changing Environments

A special issue of Agronomy (ISSN 2073-4395). This special issue belongs to the section "Water Use and Irrigation".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (25 November 2023) | Viewed by 10105

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
LEAF-Linking Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food-Research Center, Associated Laboratory TERRA, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Universidade de Lisboa, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisbon, Portugal
Interests: irrigation requirements; irrigation management; on-farm irrigation systems; irrigation districts; environmental impacts of irrigation
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Guest Editor
Research Center on Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food (LEAF), School of Agriculture (ISA), University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
Interests: crop and reference evapotranspiration; crop water requirements; irrigation management; modelling; water–yield relations; coping with water scarcity
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The agriculture sector is the world’s largest water user, accounting for about 70% of freshwater withdrawals. Most of this water is used in irrigation, especially in arid and semi-arid regions where water scarcity predominates. It is expected that these conditions will be aggravated under a climate change context. Population growth associated with the increased demand for food further exacerbates the need for increasing agricultural water productivity. It is thus critical to improve the understanding of the driving processes influencing the sustainable use of water, and to implement innovative water management practices and strategies to mitigate climate variability while contributing to control soil salinization and sodicity as well as nutrient leaching to water bodies. Aiming to improve the resilience of irrigated agriculture, it is paramount to design and implement integrated and sustainable water management and water saving practices, and to adapt cropping systems and crop management practices while synergistically improving yields, water productivity and economic benefits. The need for implementing water-saving and sustainable practices, supporting stakeholder and policymaker decisions, is particularly important in agricultural areas characterized by a decreased water availability.

The main goal of this Special Issue is to publish high-quality research articles addressing recent developments in feasible, integrative and synergistic practices and approaches at diverse scales such as crop, farm, and irrigation scheme, which will contribute to improving water productivity. Topics such as deficit irrigation, water harvesting, soil–water conservation practices, improved irrigation systems, diversified cropping systems, alternative water resources, irrigation water delivery, and others will be considered for inclusion in this Special Issue.

Dr. Maria do Rosario Cameira
Dr. Paula Paredes
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • crop physical and economic water productivity indicators
  • improved irrigation systems
  • water-saving practices and technologies
  • irrigation water delivery
  • sustainable crop and water management
  • irrigation scheduling
  • climate variability and climate change
  • droughts
  • decision-support systems
  • water management tools
  • food security
  • remote sensing
  • precision irrigation
  • adaptation practices to cope with soil salinity

Related Special Issue

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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22 pages, 10408 KiB  
Article
Characteristics and Influence Factors of Soil Water and Salt Movement in the Yellow River Irrigation District
by Kangkang He, Qiuying Zhang, Zhipin Ai, Ning Xu, Yunfeng Qiao, Chao Tian, Peifang Leng, Hefa Cheng, Gang Chen and Fadong Li
Agronomy 2024, 14(1), 92; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy14010092 - 29 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1031
Abstract
Climate change and human activities lead to freshwater shortage, soil salinization, and food security crises in arable land. To explore the natural and irrigation factors on soil water and salt movement, this study quantitatively analyzed the dynamic characteristics of soil water and salt [...] Read more.
Climate change and human activities lead to freshwater shortage, soil salinization, and food security crises in arable land. To explore the natural and irrigation factors on soil water and salt movement, this study quantitatively analyzed the dynamic characteristics of soil water and salt movement under precipitation, groundwater irrigation, and brackish water irrigation conditions for the next 30 years using Hydrus-1D model-based parameters obtained from the winter wheat–summer maize rotation experiments in the Yellow River Irrigation District. The results showed that precipitation was the key factor of climate change affecting soil water and salt migration, especially in the 0–20 cm soil layer. Under both SSP585 and SSP245 climate scenarios, rainfall in normal and wet years promoted salt leaching up to 1 m below the surface soil. But in dry years, salt washing treatment was required for the tillage layer to prevent salt accumulation. The higher the groundwater level was, the higher the soil water and salt content was in the 0–100 cm soil layer. In this soil layer, a 2 m groundwater level contributed 30% to wheat water needs, while a 3 m groundwater level contributed 18%, and no significant contribution was observed for a 4 m groundwater level. The salinity of the soil profile showed an overall increasing trend with irrigation using 1–3 g/L brackish water for 30 years. However, the salinity in the 0–100 cm soil layer was below the salt tolerance threshold of winter wheat and summer maize with salts accumulated in the 1–2 m soil layer. Considering the salinization of the root zone and crop water needs, it is recommended that the safe groundwater level for brackish water irrigation should be 3 m in the study region. This study provides scientific reference for groundwater–farmland ecosystems to utilize brackish water and treat saline–alkali lands. Full article
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21 pages, 4948 KiB  
Article
Effects of Different Drip Irrigation Patterns on Grain Yield and Population Structure of Different Water- and Fertilizer-Demanding Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) Varieties
by Jianguo Jing, Zhaofeng Li, Fu Qian, Xinyi Chang and Weihua Li
Agronomy 2023, 13(12), 3018; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13123018 - 8 Dec 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 964
Abstract
A suitable population structure is the foundation for a high yield of wheat. Studying the changes in yield and population structure of different wheat rows under drip irrigation conditions can provide a theoretical basis for optimizing wheat drip irrigation pattern. In a two-year [...] Read more.
A suitable population structure is the foundation for a high yield of wheat. Studying the changes in yield and population structure of different wheat rows under drip irrigation conditions can provide a theoretical basis for optimizing wheat drip irrigation pattern. In a two-year field experiment, two different water- and fertilizer-demanding spring wheat varieties (XC22 and XC44) were used to study the changes of stem and tiller dynamics, dry matter accumulation, canopy photo-synthetically active radiation (PAR) interception, and canopy apparent photosynthesis rate (CAP) under one tube serving four rows of wheat drip irrigation pattern (TR4, drip lateral spacing (DLS) = 60 cm, wheat row spacing (WRS) = 15 cm) and one tube serving six rows of wheat drip irrigation pattern (TR6, DLS = 90 cm, WRS = 15 cm; TR6L, DLS = 90 cm, WRS = 10 cm and TR6S, DLS = 80 cm, WRS = 10 cm). The results showed that under the condition of equal row spacing of 15 cm, after increasing the number of wheat rows serving by one drip irrigation tube from four (TR4, control) to six (TR6), the yields (water use efficiency) of XC22 and XC44 were lower by 11.19% and 8.63%, respectively. The reduction of yield was related to uneven population growth, specifically as follows: compared with the first wheat row (R1), at flowering stage the leaf area index (LAI) and PAR interception in the third wheat row (R3) of XC22 and XC44 were significantly decreased by 30.02%, 18.69%, 9.59%, and 14.74%, respectively. At the maturity stage, the biomass, plant height, and panicles number of tiller (TPN) in R3 were significantly decreased by 22.15%, 12.34%, 15.46%, 5.24%, 65.07%, and 42.11%, respectively. At the jointing, flowering, and milk-ripening stage, the CAP were significantly decreased by 24.65%, 22.85%, 17.06%, 14.02%, 42.14%, and 32.27%, respectively, the decrease of XC22 were all higher than that of XC44 (except for PAR interception). After the TR6 pattern was processed to narrow the wheat row spacing from 15 cm to 10 cm under the condition of the same drip tube lateral spacing (TR6L) and under the condition of shortening drip tube lateral spacing by 10 cm (TR6S), the yields in R3 of XC22 and XC44 were significantly increased by 20.07%, 18.43%, 30.39%, and 23.80%, respectively, and the increase in yields were related to the improvement of LAI, biomass, plant height, TPN, PAR interception, and increased population photosynthesis. Among the four drip irrigation patterns, for both XC22 and XC44, the yield of TR6S was the closest to that of TR4, and the yields of them were significantly higher than that of TR6 and TR6L. Full article
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21 pages, 3259 KiB  
Article
Machine Learning and Conventional Methods for Reference Evapotranspiration Estimation Using Limited-Climatic-Data Scenarios
by Pietros André Balbino dos Santos, Felipe Schwerz, Luiz Gonsaga de Carvalho, Victor Buono da Silva Baptista, Diego Bedin Marin, Gabriel Araújo e Silva Ferraz, Giuseppe Rossi, Leonardo Conti and Gianluca Bambi
Agronomy 2023, 13(9), 2366; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13092366 - 12 Sep 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1065
Abstract
Reference evapotranspiration (ET0) is one important agrometeorological parameter for hydrological studies and climate risk zoning. ET0 calculation by the FAO Penman–Monteith method requires several input data. However, the availability of climate data has been a problem in many places around [...] Read more.
Reference evapotranspiration (ET0) is one important agrometeorological parameter for hydrological studies and climate risk zoning. ET0 calculation by the FAO Penman–Monteith method requires several input data. However, the availability of climate data has been a problem in many places around the world, so the study of scenarios with different combinations of climate data has become essential. The aim of this study was to evaluate the performance of artificial neural network (ANN), random forest (RF), support vector machine (SVM), and multiple linear regression (MLR) approaches to estimate monthly mean ET0 with different input data combinations and scenarios. Three scenarios were evaluated: at the state level, where all climatological stations were used (Scenario I–SI), and at the regional level, where the Minas Gerais state was divided according to the climatic classifications of Thornthwaite (Scenario II–SII) and Köppen (Scenario III–SIII). ANN and RF performed better in ET0 estimation among the models evaluated in the SI, SII, and SIII scenarios with the following data combinations: (i) latitude, longitude, altitude, month, mean, maximum and minimum temperature, and relative humidity and (ii) latitude, longitude, altitude, month, mean temperature, and relative humidity. SVM and MLR models are recommended for all scenarios in situations with limited climatic data where only air temperature and relative humidity data are available. The results and information presented in this study are important for the agricultural chain and water resources in Minas Gerais state. Full article
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23 pages, 2033 KiB  
Article
A VBA-Based Field Water Balance Model for Efficient Irrigation Water Management of Corn (Zea mays L.)
by Jeric S. Sadsad, Victor B. Ella, Rubenito M. Lampayan and Pompe C. Sta. Cruz
Agronomy 2023, 13(3), 751; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13030751 - 4 Mar 2023
Viewed by 2069
Abstract
A field water balance model for efficient irrigation water management of corn was developed using Excel VBA. The model consists of five sub-components or modules, namely, (1) a plant subcomponent, (2) an effective rainfall subcomponent, (3) an evapotranspiration subcomponent, (4) a soil water [...] Read more.
A field water balance model for efficient irrigation water management of corn was developed using Excel VBA. The model consists of five sub-components or modules, namely, (1) a plant subcomponent, (2) an effective rainfall subcomponent, (3) an evapotranspiration subcomponent, (4) a soil water dynamics subcomponent for the modeling of water flow into and within the soil layers, and (5) an irrigation subcomponent for the estimation of the required amount and timing of irrigation. The model was calibrated and validated using observed data from field experiments and the results showed a reasonably good agreement between the observed and simulated soil moisture values (MAE = 5.76 mm to 12.00 mm, RMSE = 6.83 mm to 13.12 mm, NRMSE = 0.102 to 0.196, and NSE = 0.37 to 0.90). The simulations emphasized that a significant amount of water savings can be achieved when rainfall is properly accounted for in managing water in the field, and that the frequency of rainfall occurrences is as important as the magnitude of rainfall received by the crops. The wide-ranging user-friendliness and simplicity of the model developed in this study can pave the way to eliminating the barriers which cause farmers to resist advancements in their farming practices as the model can easily be used not only by researchers and scientists but also by farmers, especially those with basic knowledge of spreadsheets. Full article
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30 pages, 2693 KiB  
Article
Framework for Assessing Collective Irrigation Systems Resilience to Climate Change—The Maiorga Case Study
by Rita Esteves, Maria João Calejo, João Rolim, José Luís Teixeira and Maria Rosário Cameira
Agronomy 2023, 13(3), 661; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13030661 - 24 Feb 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1662
Abstract
In order to increase water productivity at the Collective Irrigation System (CIS) level it is crucial to adapt the existing irrigation infrastructure, enhancing water intake at the source, as well as its transport and delivery efficiency. Rehabilitation may involve structural changes and thus, [...] Read more.
In order to increase water productivity at the Collective Irrigation System (CIS) level it is crucial to adapt the existing irrigation infrastructure, enhancing water intake at the source, as well as its transport and delivery efficiency. Rehabilitation may involve structural changes and thus, a large capital investment. This investment should be proportionate to the increase in climate resilience associated to different rehabilitation alternatives. A methodology framework was developed to evaluate CIS resilience to climate change considering different rehabilitation alternatives. The assessed components were: (i) crop production systems; (ii) on-farm irrigation systems; and (iii) project rehabilitation alternatives for the conveyance and distribution of the irrigation water from the source to the farmer fields. This framework was applied to the Maiorga CIS, in central Portugal, to test the methodology performance in assessing the impacts of climate change on the supply-demand balance of the proposed rehabilitation alternatives and to evaluate their climate resilience, for the representative concentration pathways, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5, and two time periods, 2041–2070 and 2071–2100. For each scenario, period, and rehabilitation alternative, irrigation requirements at the source (demand) and stream flows (supply) were computed and the supply-demand balance was performed. Projected increases in irrigation water demand varied between 5.5% for RCP4.5/2071–2100 and 35.7% for RCP8.5/2071–2100. For RCP4.5, 11% (2050) and 9% (2080) reductions in irrigation water supply were projected, while for RCP8.5 the reduction ranges between 13% (2050) and 30% (2080). The proposed framework determined that the rehabilitation alternatives considering just one type of water source, without flow regularization and with open channel distribution to the farmer’s field, have proved to be unviable due to low resilience to climate change. Full article
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Review

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36 pages, 3264 KiB  
Review
Methodologies for Water Accounting at the Collective Irrigation System Scale Aiming at Optimizing Water Productivity
by Antónia Ferreira, João Rolim, Paula Paredes and Maria do Rosário Cameira
Agronomy 2023, 13(7), 1938; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13071938 - 22 Jul 2023
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2512
Abstract
To improve water use efficiency and productivity, particularly in irrigated areas, reliable water accounting methodologies are essential, as they provide information on the status and trends in irrigation water availability/supply and consumption/demand. At the collective irrigation system level, irrigation water accounting (IWA) relies [...] Read more.
To improve water use efficiency and productivity, particularly in irrigated areas, reliable water accounting methodologies are essential, as they provide information on the status and trends in irrigation water availability/supply and consumption/demand. At the collective irrigation system level, irrigation water accounting (IWA) relies on the quantification of water fluxes from the diversion point to the plants, at both the conveyance and distribution network and the irrigated field level. Direct measurement is the most accurate method for IWA, but in most cases, there is limited metering of irrigation water despite the increasing pressure on both groundwater and surface water resources, hindering the water accounting procedures. However, various methodologies, tools, and indicators have been developed to estimate the IWA components, depending on the scale and the level of detail being considered. Another setback for the wide implementation of IWA is the vast terminology used in the literature for different scales and levels of application. Thus, the main objectives of this review, which focuses on IWA for collective irrigation services, are to (i) demonstrate the importance of IWA by showing its relationship with water productivity and water use efficiency; (ii) clarify the concepts and terminology related to IWA; and (iii) provide an overview of various approaches to obtain reliable data for the IWA, on the demand side, both at the distribution network and on-farm systems. From the review, it can be concluded that there is a need for reliable IWA, which provides a common information base for all stakeholders. Future work could include the development of user-friendly tools and methodologies to reduce the bridge between the technology available to collect and process the information on the various water accounting components and its effective use by stakeholders. Full article
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