Managing to enhance crop water use efficiency
Some of the key soil condition attributes that can affect WUE include nutritional fertility, soil acidity or alkalinity, physical condition and water repellence. Soil management or soil modification practices that improve the productive capacity of soil have the potential to increase plant water use efficiency, such as:
- Incorporation of clay into water repellent or sandy textured topsoils
- Managing to enhance soil carbon
- Incorporation of nutrients and/or organic matter into topsoil or sub-surface layers
- Amelioration of soil physical limitations eg. application of gypsum, deep ripping
- Treatment of acid soils with liming products
Water use efficiency of crops and pastures is also dependent on agronomic management including weed control/moisture conservation, nutrition, timing of crop sowing, and control of pests and diseases.
There has been a significant improvement in WUE in most SA cropping districts over the 10 years to 2018. The challenge going forward will be to maintain this increase in the face of a changing climate, increasing costs and increased resistance of pests, diseases and weeds to pesticides. Plant breeding has continued to achieve improvements in yield with newer varieties able to achieve more grain per millimetre of water than previous varieties. With new breeding technology this level of improvement will help to increase WUE.
Find out more:
- Water use efficiency of grain crops in Australia: principles, benchmarks and management Report
- French RJ Schultz JE (1984) Water use efficiency of wheat in a Mediterranean-type environment. II. some limitations to efficiency. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 35, 765-775.