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Closing yield and harvest area gaps to mitigate water scarcity related to China’s rice production

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  • Lan, Kang
  • Chen, Xin
  • Ridoutt, Bradley G.
  • Huang, Jing
  • Scherer, Laura

Abstract

Over the past decades, China’s rice production area has experienced a substantial change in spatial distribution that has exacerbated national freshwater scarcity. To support the development of guidelines for sustainable water use in rice cropping, this study explores the potential for achieving a downscaled freshwater use boundary with high spatial resolution while maintaining China’s current production levels. We found that, to operate within the boundary, which was defined using a water scarcity index, national irrigation water use for rice cropping should reduce by 10% in water-scarce regions, implying a 10% loss in national rice production without further intervention. However, using scenario analysis, we found that the production losses can be reduced to approximately 7% by closing yield gaps, and fully compensated by closing harvest area gaps in water-rich regions. The closing of both the yield and harvest area gaps allows an increase of 6.9 million metric tons of rice (3% of the national production). The water-rich regions which are suitable for double-rice systems show a high potential to increase rice production. The spatial redistribution of rice production under these scenarios resulted in a reduction in the national water-scarcity footprint related to rice cropping of 52–55%. These results demonstrate that, to reach the downscaled water use boundary, national redistribution of rice production is necessary and urgent. Our study provides detailed spatial information to support water and land use decisions.

Suggested Citation

  • Lan, Kang & Chen, Xin & Ridoutt, Bradley G. & Huang, Jing & Scherer, Laura, 2021. "Closing yield and harvest area gaps to mitigate water scarcity related to China’s rice production," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 245(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agiwat:v:245:y:2021:i:c:s0378377420321491
    DOI: 10.1016/j.agwat.2020.106602
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    References listed on IDEAS

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