Water productivity benchmarks: The case of maize and soybean in Nebraska

Mesfin M. Mekonnen*, Arjen Y. Hoekstra, Christopher M.U. Neale, Chittaranjan Ray, Haishun S. Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Water productivity benchmarks for irrigated and rainfed agriculture will provide relevant information to manage scarce water resources and control groundwater level decline. We analyse the temporal and spatial variation of the water productivity (WP) of maize and soybean in Nebraska, with WP defined as harvested crop weight per total evapotraspiration. The results show that WP of both maize and soybean increase from west to east within Nebraska and have increased over the last 25 years, mainly due to the increase in crop yields (land productivity). We derive WP benchmarks for each crop per climate zone. Increasing actual WPs in the state to benchmark levels will increase yields by 21 % for maize and by 19 % for soybean. The WP benchmark levels for the two crops presented here will help formulating targets for closing water productivity gaps and improving the sustainability of water use in the state.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106122
JournalAgricultural water management
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Benchmarks
  • Spatial and temporal variability
  • Water footprint
  • Water productivity gaps
  • Yield gaps


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