Improving Water Use Efficiency of Wheat Crop Varieties in the North China Plain: Review and Analysis uri icon

abstract

  • The North China Plain (NCP), one of the most important agricultural regions in China, is facing a major water-resource crisis evoked by excessive exploitation of groundwater. To reduce water use while maintaining high crop production level, improving variety water use efficiency (WUE) is an urgent need, especially because other water-saving measures such as water delivery, irrigation, and agricultural practices have already achieved most possible progresses. Evaluation of variety WUE can be performed accurately at the individual plant level (WUEp). Reviewing the studies on physiological factors affecting WUEp performed up to date, stomatal conductance was considered to be an important trait associating closely with WUEp. The trait showed a large degree of varietal variability under well-watered conditions. Crop varieties differ highly in sensitivity of stomata to soil and air drying, with some varieties strongly reducing their stomatal conductance in contrast with those lightly regulating their stomata. As a result, difference among varieties in WUEp was enlarged under water deficit conditions in contrast with those under well-watered conditions. The relationship between stomatal conductance and yield depends on water availability of whole growing period in local areas. Usually, large stomatal conductance results in a high yield under good irrigation system, whereas a low stomatal conductance can lead to yield benefit under limited stored soil moisture conditions. In the NCP, winter wheat is the largest consumer of irrigation water, improvement strategies for high WUE aiming at wheat crops are in urgent need. We suggest, for the well-irrigated areas with excessive exploitation of groundwater, the wheat breeding program need to combine medium stomatal conductance (0.35 mmol H2O m?2 s?1 or so), high carboxylation efficiency, and high harvest index. Areas with partial/full access to irrigation, or infrequent drought, should target wheat varieties with high stomatal conductance under no water stress and low sensitivity of stomata to soil water deficit. Drought-prone rain-fed areas characterized by frequent and long terminal drought should target wheat varieties with low stomatal conductance under no water stress and high stomata sensitivity to soil drying to make water available during grain filling

publication date

  • 2013
  • 2013