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Impact of changing cropping pattern on the regional agricultural water productivity

  • S. K. SUN (a1) (a2) (a3), P. T. WU (a2) (a3), Y. B. WANG (a1) (a2) (a3) and X. N. ZHAO (a1) (a2) (a3)


Water scarcity is a major constraint of agricultural production in arid and semi-arid areas. In the face of future water scarcity, one possible way the agricultural sector could be adapted is to change cropping patterns and make adjustments for available water resources for irrigation. The present paper analyses the temporal evolution of cropping pattern from 1960 to 2008 in the Hetao Irrigation District (HID), China. The impact of changing cropping patterns on regional agricultural water productivity is evaluated from the water footprint (WF) perspective. Results show that the area under cash crops (e.g. sunflower and melon) has risen phenomenally over the study period because of increased economic returns pursued by farmers. Most of these cash crops have a smaller WF (high water productivity) than grain crops in HID. With the increase of area sown to cash crops, water productivity in HID increased substantially. Changing the cropping pattern has significant effects on regional crop water productivity: in this way, HID has increased the total crop production without increasing significantly the regional water consumption. The results of this case study indicate that regional agricultural water can be used effectively by properly planning crop areas and patterns under irrigation water limitations. However, there is a need to foster a cropping pattern that is multifunctional and sustainable, which can guarantee food security, enhance natural resource use and provide stable and high returns to farmers.


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Impact of changing cropping pattern on the regional agricultural water productivity

  • S. K. SUN (a1) (a2) (a3), P. T. WU (a2) (a3), Y. B. WANG (a1) (a2) (a3) and X. N. ZHAO (a1) (a2) (a3)


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