Paper: Sustainable irrigation based on co-regulation of soil water supply and atmospheric evaporative demand — Nature Communications

Click here to read the paper (Jingwen Zhang, Kaiyu Guan, Bin Peng, Ming Pan, Wang Zhou, Chongya Jiang, Hyungsuk Kimm, Trenton E. Franz, Robert F. Grant, Yi Yang, Daran R. Rudnick, Derek M. Heeren, Andrew E. Suyker, William L. Bauerle & Grace L. Miner). Here’s the abstract:


Irrigation is an important adaptation to reduce crop yield loss due to water stress from both soil water deficit (low soil moisture) and atmospheric aridity (high vapor pressure deficit, VPD). Traditionally, irrigation has primarily focused on soil water deficit. Observational evidence demonstrates that stomatal conductance is co-regulated by soil moisture and VPD from water supply and demand aspects. Here we use a validated hydraulically-driven ecosystem model to reproduce the co-regulation pattern. Specifically, we propose a plant-centric irrigation scheme considering water supply-demand dynamics (SDD), and compare it with soil-moisture-based irrigation scheme (management allowable depletion, MAD) for continuous maize cropping systems in Nebraska, United States. We find that, under current climate conditions, the plant-centric SDD irrigation scheme combining soil moisture and VPD, could significantly reduce irrigation water use (−24.0%) while maintaining crop yields, and increase economic profits (+11.2%) and irrigation water productivity (+25.2%) compared with MAD, thus SDD could significantly improve water sustainability…

The co-regulation of soil moisture and VPD on stomatal conductance
Stomatal conductance can be treated as one of the most effective metrics to quantify plant water stress considering both soil water supply (i.e., soil moisture) and atmospheric evaporative demand (i.e., VPD). Figure 2 showed the co-regulation pattern of soil moisture and VPD on stomatal conductance of maize based on observations (including those from greenhouse experiments and eddy-covariance sites) and process-based modeling under different climate conditions. Based on the contour fitted using a statistical model (see Methods), the whole regime can be classified into the co-regulated regime (i.e., inclined contours) and the VPD-dominated regime (i.e., horizontal contours). The greenhouse measurements of maize indicated that stomatal conductance increased with soil moisture and decreased with VPD in the co-regulated regime (large gradient of stomatal conductance with soil moisture and VPD, Fig. S1), while it was mainly driven by VPD in the VPD-dominated regime (Fig. 2a, b). The co-regulation of soil moisture and VPD on stomatal conductance was further confirmed with eddy-covariance measurements (Fig. 2c, d). Stomatal conductance was higher under higher soil moisture (more water supply) and/or lower VPD (less water demand). All these observed patterns could be reproduced by a validated hydraulically driven ecosystem model (ecosys) under maize cropping systems across 12 sites in Nebraska (an example site-GD in Fig. 2e, f, and Fig. S2) (see Methods). The co-regulation pattern indicated that plants can have water stress even at high soil moisture but under high VPD conditions. In contrast, plants may not have water stress when soil moisture was relatively low and VPD also happened to be low.

Leave a Reply