Adaptive crop management under climate uncertainty: Changing the game for sustainable water use

Soe W. Myint, Rimjhim Aggarwal, Baojuan Zheng, Elizabeth A. Wentz, Jim Holway, Chao Fan, Nancy Selover, Chuyuan Wang, Heather A. Fischer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Water supplies are projected to become increasingly scarce, driving farmers, energy producers, and urban dwellers towards an urgent and emerging need to improve the effectiveness and the efficiency of water use. Given that agricultural water use is the largest water consumer throughout the U.S. Southwest, this study sought to answer two specific research questions: (1) How does water consumption vary by crop type on a metropolitan spatial scale? (2) What is the impact of drought on agricultural water consumption? To answer the above research questions, 92 Landsat images were acquired to generate fine-resolution daily evapotranspiration (ET) maps at 30 m spatial resolution for both dry and wet years (a total of 1095 ET maps), and major crop types were identified for the Phoenix Active Management Area. The study area has a subtropical desert climate and relies almost completely on irrigation for farming. Results suggest that there are some factors that farmers and water managers can control. During dry years, crops of all types use more water. Practices that can offset this higher water use include double or multiple cropping practice, drought tolerant crop selection, and optimizing the total farmed area. Double and multiple cropping practices result in water savings because soil moisture is retained from one planting to another. Further water savings occur when drought tolerant crop types are selected, especially in dry years. Finally, disproportionately large area coverage of high water consuming crops can be balanced and/or reduced or replaced with more water efficient crops. This study provides strong evidence that water savings can be achieved through policies that create incentives for adopting smart cropping strategies, thus providing important guidelines for sustainable agriculture management and climate adaptation to improve future food security.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1080
JournalAtmosphere
Volume12
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Keywords

  • Crop type
  • Drought
  • Evapotranspiration
  • Landsat
  • Multiple cropping practices
  • Water consumption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)

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