Main content area

Field‐based experimental water footprint study of sunflower growth in a semi‐arid region of China

Qin, Lijie, Jin, Yinghua, Duan, Peili, He, Hongshi
Journal of the science of food and agriculture 2016 v.96 no.9 pp. 3266-3273
Helianthus annuus, drought, field experimentation, growing season, irrigation water, semiarid zones, soil water, soil water balance, temperature, wastewater, water footprint, water utilization, China
BACKGROUND: Field‐scale changes in the water footprint during crop growth play an important role in formulating sustainable water utilisation strategies. This study aimed to explore field‐scale variation in the water footprint of growing sunflowers in the western Jilin Province, China, during a 3‐year field experiment. The goals of this study were to (1) determine the components of the ‘blue’ and ‘green’ water footprints for sunflowers sown with water, and (2) analyse variations in water footprints and soil water balance under different combinations of temperature and precipitation. Specific actions could be adopted to maintain sustainable agricultural water utilisation in the semi‐arid region based on this study. RESULTS: The green, blue, and grey water footprints accounted for 93.7–94.7%, 0.4–0.5%, and 4.9–5.8%, respectively, of the water footprint of growing sunflowers. The green water footprint for effective precipitation during the growing season accounted for 58.8% in a normal drought year but 48.2% in an extreme drought year. When the effective precipitation during the growing season could not meet the green water use, a moisture deficit arose. This increase in the moisture deficit can have a significant impact on soil water balance. CONCLUSION: Green water was the primary water source for sunflower growth in the study area, where a scarcity of irrigation water during sunflower growth damaged the soil water balance, particularly in years with continuous drought. The combination of temperature and precipitation effected the growing environment, leading to differences in yield and water footprint. The field experiments in this area may benefit from further water footprint studies at the global, national and regional scale.