Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Benchmarking water-use efficiency of rainfed wheat in dry environments

Victor O. Sadras A C and John F. Angus B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A South Australian Research and Development Institute & School of Agriculture and Wine, The University of Adelaide, Waite Research Precinct, GPO Box 397, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia.

B CSIRO Plant Industry, GPO Box 1600, Canberra, ACT 2061, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: sadras.victor@saugov.sa.gov.au

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 57(8) 847-856 https://doi.org/10.1071/AR05359
Submitted: 12 October 2005  Accepted: 27 March 2006   Published: 9 August 2006

Abstract

Attainable water-use efficiency relates attainable yield, i.e. the best yield achieved through skilful use of available technology, and seasonal evapotranspiration (ET). For wheat crops in south-eastern Australia, there is a common, often large gap between actual and attainable water-use efficiency. To evaluate whether this gap is only an Australian problem or a general feature of dry environments, we compared water-use efficiency of rainfed wheat in south-eastern Australia, the North American Great Plains, China Loess Plateau, and the Mediterranean Basin. A dataset of published data was compiled (n = 691); water-use efficiency (WUEY/ET) was calculated as the ratio between actual grain yield and seasonal ET. Maximum WUEY/ET was 22 kg grain/ha.mm. Average WUEY/ET (kg grain/ha.mm) was 9.9 for south-eastern Australia, 9.8 for the China Loess Plateau, 8.9 for the northern Great Plains of North America, 7.6 for the Mediterranean Basin, and 5.3 for the southern-central Great Plains; the variation in average WUEY/ET was largely accounted for by reference evapotranspiration around flowering. Despite substantial differences in important factors including soils, precipitation patterns, and management practices, crops in all these environments had similarly low average WUEY/ET, between 32 and 44% of attainable efficiency. We conclude that low water-use efficiency of Australian crops is not a local problem, but a widespread feature of dry environments. Yield gap analysis for crops in the Mallee region of Australia revealed low availability of phosphorus, late sowing, and subsoil chemical constraints as key factors reducing water-use efficiency, largely through their effects on soil evaporation.

Additional keywords: Australia, China, evapotranspiration, Great Plains, Mediterranean Basin, nitrogen, soil evaporation, yield.


Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Mustafa Pala, Mingbin Huang, Zhang Xiying, Wen Chen, and David Bonfil for information on cropping systems of Syria, China, and Israel, James Nuttall for his Victorian Mallee dataset, Matthew Reynolds and Gustavo Slafer for comments on the manuscript, Jane Gillooly for drawing the map, and the Australian Grains and Research Development Corporation for financial support.


References


Abbate PE, Dardanelli JL, Cantarero MG, Maturano M, Melchiori RJM, Suero EE (2004) Climatic and water availability effects on water-use efficiency in wheat. Crop Science 44, 474–483.

Acevedo EH , Silva PC , Silva HR , Solar BR (1999) Wheat production in Mediterranean environments. In ‘Wheat: ecology and physiology of yield determination’. (Eds EH Satorre, GA Slafer) pp. 295–331. (Food Product Press: New York)

Allen RG , Pereira LS , Raes D , Smith M (1998) ‘Crop evapotranspiration: guidelines for computing crop water requirements.’ Irrigation and Drainage Paper 5698. (FAO: Rome)

Amir J, Krikun J, Orion D, Putter J, Klitman S (1991) Wheat production in an arid environment. 1. Water-use efficiency, as affected by management practices. Field Crops Research 27, 351–364.
CrossRef |

Angus JF (2001) Nitrogen supply and demand in Australian agriculture. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 41, 277–288.
CrossRef |

Angus JF, van Herwaarden AF (2001) Increasing water use and water use efficiency in dryland wheat. Agronomy Journal 93, 290–298.

Ankeer A, Hattar B, Battikhi AM (1997) Effect of nitrogen fertilizer forms and application methods on wheat crop yield and soil moisture in a vertisol. Dirasat, Agricultural Sciences 24, 187–192.

Asten PJAv, Wopereis MCS, Haefele S, Isselmou MO, Kropff MJ (2002) Explaining yield gaps on farmer-identified degraded and non-degraded soils in a Sahelian irrigated rice scheme. Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences 50, 277–296.

Barker R (1979) Adoption and production impact of new rice technology—the yield constraints problem. In ‘Farm-level constraints to high rice yields in Asia: 1974–77’. (Ed. IRRI) pp. 1–26. (International Rice Research Institute: Los Baños, The Philippines)

Bauer A, Ba L (1991) Grain yield production efficiency per unit of evapotranspiration. North Dakota Farm Research 48, 15–20.

Baumhardt RL, Jones OR (2002) Residue management and tillage effects on soil–water storage and grain yield of dryland wheat and sorghum for a clay loam in Texas. Soil and Tillage Research 68, 71–82.
CrossRef |

Bonfil D, Mufradi I, Klitman S, Asido S (1999) Wheat grain yield and soil profile water distribution in a no-till arid environment. Agronomy Journal 91, 368–373.

Cai G , Dang T , Guo S , Hao M (2002) Efficiency of nitrogen and water use in rainfed wheat in China. In ‘17th World Soil Science Congress’. Bangkok, Thailand. pp. 1–9. (IUSS, CD-ROM)

Caldiz DO, Haverkort AJ, Struik PC (2002) Analysis of a complex crop production system in interdependent agro-ecological zones: a methodological approach for potatoes in Argentina. Agricultural Systems 73, 297–311.
CrossRef |

Calviño PA, Andrade FH, Sadras VO (2003) Maize yield as affected by water availability, soil depth and crop management. Agronomy Journal 95, 275–281.

Calviño PA, Sadras VO (1999) Interannual variation in soybean yield: interaction among rainfall, soil depth and crop management. Field Crops Research 63, 237–246.
CrossRef |

Calviño PA, Sadras VO (2002) On-farm assessment of constraints to wheat yield in the south-eastern Pampas. Field Crops Research 74, 1–11.
CrossRef |

Casanova D, Goudriaan J, Bouma J, Epema GF (1999) Yield gap analysis in relation to soil properties in direct-seeded flooded rice. Geoderma 91, 191–216.
CrossRef |

Casanova D, Goudriaan J, Catala Forner MM, Withagen JCM (2002) Rice yield prediction from yield components and limiting factors. European Journal of Agronomy 17, 41–61.
CrossRef |

Cooper PJM, Gregory PJ, Tully D, Harris HC (1987) Improving water use efficiency of annual crops in rainfed systems of West Asia and North Africa. Experimental Agriculture 23, 113–158.

Corbeels M, Hofman G, Van Cleemput O (1998) Analysis of water use by wheat grown on a cracking clay soil in a semi-arid Mediterranean environment: weather and nitrogen effects. Agricultural Water Management 38, 147–167.
CrossRef |

Cornish PS, Murray GM (1989) Low rainfall rarely limits wheat yields in southern New South Wales. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 29, 77–83.
CrossRef |

Davidson BR (1962) Crop yields in experiments and on farms. Nature 194, 458–459.
CrossRef |


Diaz-Ambrona CGH, O’Leary GJ, Sadras VO, O’Connell MG, Connor DJ (2005) Environmental risk analysis of farming systems in a semi-arid environment: effect of rotations and management practices on deep drainage. Field Crops Research 94, 257–271.
CrossRef |

Fengrui L, Songling Z, Geballe GT (2000) Water use patterns and agronomic performance for some cropping systems with and without fallow crops in a semi-arid environment of northwest China. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 79, 129–142.
CrossRef |

Fereres E, Goldhamer DA, Parsons LR (2003) Irrigation water management of horticultural crops. HortScience 38, 1036–1042.

Fischer RA (1985) Number of kernels in wheat crops and the influence of solar radiation and temperature. Journal of Agricultural Science 105, 447–461.

Fischer RA (1999) Wheat cropping in Australia. In ‘Wheat: ecology and physiology of yield determination’. (Eds EH Satorre, GA Slafer) pp. 277–294. (Food Product Press: New York)

Fischer RA (2004) ‘Donald Oration 2004.’ (The Australian Society of Agronomy) www.agronomy.org.au/donald/fischer.htm. Accessed: 5 September 2005.

French RJ, Schultz JE (1984a) Water use efficiency of wheat in a Mediterranean-type environment. I. The relation between yield, water use and climate. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 35, 743–764.
CrossRef |

French RJ, Schultz JE (1984b) Water use efficiency of wheat in a Mediterranean-type environment. II. Some limitations to efficiency. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 35, 765–775.
CrossRef |

Gallardo M, Fereres E (1993) Growth, grain yield and water use efficiency of tritordeum in relation to wheat. European Journal of Agronomy 2, 83–91.

Garabet S, Wood M, Ryan J (1998) Nitrogen and water effects on wheat yield in a Mediterranean-type climate. Field Crops Research 57, 309–318.
CrossRef |

Gentilli J (1971) The main climatological elements. In ‘Climates of Australia and New Zealand’. (Ed. J Gentilli) pp. 119–188. (Elsevier: New York)

Gimeno V, Fernández J, Fereres E (1989) Winter plantings as a means of drought escape in sunflower. Field Crops Research 22, 307–316.
CrossRef |

Halitligil MB, Akn A, Bilgin N, Deniz Y, Ögretir K, Altnel B, Isk Y (2000) Effect of nitrogen fertilization on yield and nitrogen and water use efficiencies of winter wheat (durum and bread) varieties grown under conditions found in Central Anatolia. Biology and Fertility of Soils 31, 175–182.
CrossRef |

Halvorson AD , Reule CA (1976) Controlling saline seeps by intensive cropping of recharge areas. In ‘Proceedings Regional Saline Seep Control Symposium’. Bulletin No. 1132. pp. 115–125. (Montana State University: Montana)

Holloway RE, Alston AM (1992) The effects of salt and boron on growth of wheat. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 43, 987–1001.
CrossRef |

Huang M, Dang T, Gallichand J, Goulet M (2003a) Effect of increased fertilizer applications to wheat crop on soil-water depletion in the Loess Plateau, China. Agricultural Water Management 58, 267–278.
CrossRef |

Huang M, Shao M, Zhang L, Li Y (2003b) Water use efficiency and sustainability of different long-term crop rotation systems in the Loess Plateau of China. Soil and Tillage Research 72, 95–104.
CrossRef |

Isbell RF (1996) ‘The Australian soil classification.’ (CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne)

Jones OR, Popham TW (1997) Cropping and tillage systems for dryland grain production in the Southern High Plains. Agronomy Journal 89, 222–232.

Kang S, Zhang L, Liang Y, Hu X, Cai H, Gu B (2002) Effects of limited irrigation on yield and water use efficiency of winter wheat in the Loess Plateau of China. Agricultural Water Management 55, 203–216.
CrossRef |

Kramer PJ , Boyer JS (1995) ‘Water relations of plants and soils.’ (Academic Press: San Diego, CA)

Latta J, O’Leary GJ (2003) Long-term comparison of rotation and fallow tillage systems of wheat in Australia. Field Crops Research 83, 173–190.
CrossRef |

Loomis RS , Connor DJ (1996) ‘Crop ecology. Productivity and management in agricultural systems.’ (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK)

Magrin GO, Hall AJ, Baldy C, Grondona MO (1993) Spatial and interannual variations in the photothermal quotient: implications for the potential kernel number of wheat crops in Argentina. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 67, 29–41.
CrossRef |

McVicar TR, Zhang G, Bradford AS, Wang H, Dawes WR, Zhang L, Lingtao L (2002) Monitoring regional agricultural water use efficiency for Hebei Province on the North China Plain. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 53, 55–76.
CrossRef |

Miller PR, McConkey BG, Clayton GW, Brandt SA, Staricka JA, Johnston AM, Lafond GP, Schatz BG, Baltensperger DD, Neill KE (2002) Pulse crop adaptation in the Northern Great Plains. Agronomy Journal 94, 261–272.

Mrabet R (2000) Differential response of wheat to tillage management systems in a semiarid area of Morocco. Field Crops Research 66, 165–174.
CrossRef |

Nerbas T (2004) Effect of stubble management on subsequent crops. www.ssca.ca/Issue35/Tim.htm Accessed: 5 February 2004.

Nielsen DC, Halvorson AD (1991) Nitrogen fertility influence on water stress and yield of winter wheat. Agronomy Journal 83, 1065–1070.

Nuttall JG, Armstrong RD, Connor DJ (2003) Evaluating physicochemical constraints of Calcarosols on wheat yield in the Victorian southern Mallee. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 54, 487–497.
CrossRef |

O’Leary GJ, Connor DJ (1997) Stubble retention and tillage in a semi-arid environment: 3. Response of wheat. Field Crops Research 54, 39–50.
CrossRef |

Oweis T, Zhang H (1998) Water-use efficiency: index for optimising supplemental irrigation of wheat in water-scarce areas. Zeitschrift für Bewasserungswirtschaft 33, 321–336.

Oweis T, Zhang H, Pala M (2000) Water use efficiency of rainfed and irrigated bread wheat in a Mediterranean environment. Agronomy Journal 92, 231–238.
CrossRef |

Padbury G, Waltman S, Caprio J, Coen G, McGinn S, Mortensen D, Nielsen G, Sinclair R (2002) Agroecosystems and land resources of the Northern Great Plains. Agronomy Journal 94, 251–261.

Passioura J (1976) Physiology of grain yield in wheat growing on stored water. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology 3, 559–565.

Raun WR , Johnson GV , Westerman RL , Hettey JA (1999) Wheat production in the Great Plains of North America. In ‘Wheat: ecology and physiology of yield determination’. (Eds EH Satorre, GA Slafer) pp. 263–275f. (Food Product Press: New York)

Richards RA, Rebetzke GJ, Condon AG, van Herwaarden AF (2002) Breeding opportunities for increasing the efficiency of water use and crop yield in temperate cereals. Crop Science 42, 111–121.
PubMed |


Richardson AEV (1923) The water requirements of farm crops. Influence of environment on the transpiration ratio. Journal of the Department of Agriculture Victoria 21, 193–284.

Richardson AEV, Trumble HC (1928) The transpiration ratio of farm crops and pasture plants in the Adelaide district. Journal of the Department of Agriculture South Australia 32, 224–244.

Rodriguez D, Nuttall J, Sadras V, van Rees H, Armstrong R (2006) Impact of subsoil constraints on wheat yield and gross margin on fine-textured soils of the southern Victorian Mallee. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 57, 355–365.
CrossRef |


Sadras VO (2002) Interaction between rainfall and nitrogen fertilisation of wheat in environments prone to terminal drought: economic and environmental risk analysis. Field Crops Research 77, 201–215.
CrossRef |

Sadras VO (2004) Yield and water-use efficiency of water and nitrogen stressed wheat crops increase with degree of co-limitation. European Journal of Agronomy 21, 455–464.
CrossRef |

Sadras VO, Baldock JA (2003) Influence of size of rainfall events on water-driven processes. II. Soil nitrogen mineralisation in a semi-arid environment. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 54, 353–361.
CrossRef |

Sadras VO, Baldock J, Roget DK, Rodriguez D (2003) Measuring and modelling yield and water budget components of wheat crops in coarse-textured soils with chemical constraints. Field Crops Research 84, 241–260.
CrossRef |

Sadras VO, Connor DJ (1991) Physiological basis of the response of harvest index to the fraction of water transpired after anthesis. A simple model to estimate harvest index for determinate species. Field Crops Research 26, 227–239.
CrossRef |

Sadras VO, Roget DK (2004) Production and environmental aspects of cropping intensification in a semiarid environment of southeastern Australia. Agronomy Journal 96, 236–246.

Sadras VO, Roget DK, O’Leary GJ (2002) On-farm assessment of environmental and management constraints to wheat yield and rainfall use efficiency in the Mallee. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 53, 587–598.
CrossRef |

Siddique KHM, Tennant D, Perry MW, Beldford RK (1990) Water use and water use efficiency of old and modern wheat cultivars in a Mediterranean-type environment. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 41, 431–447.
CrossRef |

Slafer GA , Satorre EH , Andrade FH (1994) Increases in grain yield in bread wheat from breeding and associated physiological changes. In ‘Genetic improvement of field crops’. (Ed. GA Slafer) pp. 1–68. (Marcel Dekker: New York)

Stöckle CO, Donatelli M, Nelson R (2003) CropSyst, a cropping systems simulation model. European Journal of Agronomy 18, 289–307.
CrossRef |

Stöckle CO, Martin RJ, Campbell GS (1994) CropSyst, a cropping systems simulation model—water/nitrogen budgets and crop yield. Agricultural Systems 46, 335–359.
CrossRef |

Tompkins DK, Fowler DB, Wright AT (1991) Water use by no-till winter wheat influence of seed rate and row spacing. Agronomy Journal 83, 766–769.

Trethowan RM, Crossa J, van Ginkel M, Rajaram S (2001) Relationships among bread wheat international yield testing locations in dry areas. Crop Science 41, 1461–1469.

van Herwaarden AF, Farquhar GD, Angus JF, Richards RA, Howe GN (1998) ‘Haying-off’, the negative grain yield response of dryland wheat to nitrogen fertiliser. I. Biomass, grain yield, and water use. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 49, 1067–1082.
CrossRef |

Wallace JS (2000) Increasing agricultural water use efficiency to meet future food production. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 82, 105–119.
CrossRef |

Winter SR, Musick JT (1993) Wheat planting date effects on soil water extraction and grain yield. Agronomy Journal 85, 912–916.

Zhang H, Oweis TY, Garabet S, Pala M (1998) Water-use efficiency and transpiration efficiency of wheat under rain-fed conditions and supplemental irrigation in a Mediterranean-type environment. Plant and Soil 201, 295–305.
CrossRef |








Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (112)

View Altmetrics