Crop and Tillage Effects on Water Productivity of Dryland Agriculture in Argentina
Rising demands for food and uncertainties about climate change call for a paradigm shift in water management with a stronger focus on rainfed agriculture. The objective here was to estimate water productivity of different crops under no-till (NT) and conventional till (CT), in order to identify rotations that improve the water productivity of dryland agriculture. We hypothesized that NT and cereal crops would have a positive effect on overall water productivity. Crop yield and water use data were obtained from a 15 year experiment (1993 to 2008) on an entic Haplustoll in the semiarid Pampa, Argentina, with a rotation of wheat ( Triticum aestivum L.), corn ( Zea mays L.), sunflower ( Helianthus annus ), and soybean ( Glycine max L. Merr.) . The results indicated an improved water productivity of all crops under NT compared with that of CT; however, the response of cereals (corn +1.0 kg ha −1 mm −1 , wheat +1.3 kg ha −1 mm −1 ) was higher than that of sunflower (+0.3 kg ha −1 mm −1 ) and soybean (+0.5 kg ha −1 mm −1 ). Crop type had a higher impact on water productivity than did tillage system. In agreement with our hypothesis, cereal crops were more efficient (corn 9.8 and wheat 6.9 kg ha −1 mm −1 ) compared with soybean 2.4 and sunflower 3.9 kg mm −1 , but the economic water productivity of sunflower (0.9 US$ ha −1 mm −1 ) almost equaled that of wheat (1.1 US$ ha −1 mm −1 ) and corn (1.2 US$ ha −1 mm −1 ). We concluded that the use of the synergy between NT and water efficient crops could be a promising step towards improving food production in semiarid regions.
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