Review of measured crop water productivity values for irrigated wheat, rice, cotton and maize

Sander J. Zwart*, Wim G M Bastiaanssen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

695 Citations (Scopus)


The great challenge of the agricultural sector is to produce more food from less water, which can be achieved by increasing Crop Water Productivity (CWP). Based on a review of 84 literature sources with results of experiments not older than 25 years, it was found that the ranges of CWP of wheat, rice, cotton and maize exceed in all cases those reported by FAO earlier. Globally measured average CWP values per unit water depletion are 1.09, 1.09, 0.65, 0.23 and 1.80 kg m-3 for wheat, rice, cottonseed, cottonlint and maize, respectively. The range of CWP is very large (wheat, 0.6-1.7 kg m-3; rice, 0.6-1.6 kg m-3; cottonseed, 0.41-0.95 kg m-3; cottonlint, 0.14-0.33 kg m-3 and maize, 1.1-2.7 kg m-3) and thus offers tremendous opportunities for maintaining or increasing agricultural production with 20-40% less water resources. The variability of CWP can be ascribed to: (i) climate; (ii) irrigation water management and (iii) soil (nutrient) management, among others. The vapour pressure deficit is inversely related to CWP. Vapour pressure deficit decreases with latitude, and thus favourable areas for water wise irrigated agriculture are located at the higher latitudes. The most outstanding conclusion is that CWP can be increased significantly if irrigation is reduced and crop water deficit is intendently induced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-133
Number of pages19
JournalAgricultural water management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Cotton
  • Crop water productivity
  • Maize
  • Rice
  • Water scarcity
  • Wheat


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