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Quantifying water and CO2 fluxes and water use efficiencies across irrigated C3 and C4 crops in a humid climate

Anapalli, Saseendran S., Fisher, Daniel K., Reddy, Krishna N., Krutz, Jason L., Pinnamaneni, Srinivasa R., Sui, Ruixiu
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.663 pp. 338-350
C3 plants, C4 plants, air, aquifers, carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide production, clay soils, corn, cotton, cropping systems, crops, economic sustainability, eddy covariance, evapotranspiration, greenhouse gases, humid zones, irrigation, net ecosystem exchange, soybeans, water management, water use efficiency, Mississippi
Underground aquifers that took millions of years to fill are being depleted due to unsustainable water withdrawals for crop irrigation. Concurrently, atmospheric warming due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases is enhancing demands for water inputs in agriculture. Accurate information on crop-ecosystem water use efficiencies [EWUE, amount of CO2 removed from the soil-crop-air system per unit of water used in evapotranspiration (ET)] is essential for developing environmentally and economically sustainable water management practices that also help account for CO2, the most abundant of the greenhouse gases, exchange rates from cropping systems. We quantified EWUE of corn (a C4 crop) and soybean and cotton (C3 crops) in a predominantly clay soil under humid climate in the Lower Mississippi (MS) Delta, USA. Crop-ecosystem level exchanges of CO2 and water from these three cropping systems were measured in 2017 using the eddy covariance method. Ancillary micrometeorological data were also collected. On a seasonal basis, all three crops were net sinks for CO2 in the atmosphere: corn, soybean, and cotton fixed −31,331, −23,563, and −8856 kg ha−1 of CO2 in exchange for 483, 552, and 367 mm of ET, respectively (negative values show that CO2 is fixed in the plant or removed from the air). The seasonal NEE estimated for cotton was 72% less than corn and 62% less than soybean. Half-hourly averaged maximum net ecosystem exchange (NEE) from these cropping systems were −33.6, −27.2, and −14.2 kg CO2 ha−1, respectively. Average daily NEE were −258, −169, and −65 kg CO2 ha−1, respectively. The EWUE in these three cropping systems were 53, 43, and 24 kg CO2 ha−1 mm−1 of water. Results of this investigation can help in adopting crop mixtures that are environmentally and economically sustainable, conserving limited water resources in the region.