Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2024-37
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2024-37
20 Feb 2024
 | 20 Feb 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Green water availability and water-limited crop yields under a changing climate in Ethiopia

Mosisa Tujuba Wakjira, Nadav Peleg, Johan Six, and Peter Molnar

Abstract. Climate change is expected to influence future agricultural water availability, posing particular challenges in rainfed agricultural systems. This study aims to analyze the climatology of green water availability and water-limited attainable yields (AY) – the maximum crop yield achieved with available green water under optimal soil nutrient and crop management, considering four major cereal crops (teff, maize, sorghum, and wheat) produced in Ethiopia. An agrohydrological modelling framework was developed to simulate climatic-hydrological-crop interactions. The model was applied to a reference (1981–2010) and future periods (2020–2099) under low, intermediate, and high greenhouse gas emission scenarios in order to: (i) evaluate the current green water availability and AY potential; (ii) assess their climate-driven changes; and (iii) analyze the sensitivity of changes in AY to changes in rainfall and atmospheric evaporative demand. With regional variations based on climatic regimes, the main growing season (Meher, May to September) has an average AY of 79 % of a fully irrigated potential yield with an average soil moisture deficit of 29 % of moisture content at full water holding capacity. AY of the short growing season (Belg, February–May) is on average 37 % of the potential yield, with a soil moisture deficit of 56 %. Under the future climate, Meher is expected to experience small changes in the range of ±5 % with dominantly positive trends in the 2030s and decreases in the 2060s and 2080s, mainly driven by changes in the atmospheric evaporative demand due to rising temperatures. The Belg-producing regions are expected to experience increased AY that is dominantly controlled by increases in rainfall. On the other hand, a substantial yield gap is identified between actual and water-limited yields. This points to the need for combining green water management practices with nutrient and tillage management, plant protection, and cultivar improvement to close the yield gaps and to build up climate resilience of farmers.

Mosisa Tujuba Wakjira, Nadav Peleg, Johan Six, and Peter Molnar

Status: open (until 29 May 2024)

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Mosisa Tujuba Wakjira, Nadav Peleg, Johan Six, and Peter Molnar
Mosisa Tujuba Wakjira, Nadav Peleg, Johan Six, and Peter Molnar

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Short summary
While rainwater is a key resource in crop production, its productivity faces challenges from climate change. Using a simple model of climate, water, and crop yield interactions, we found that rain-scarce croplands in Ethiopia are likely to experience decreases in crop yield during the main growing season, primarily due to future temperature increases. These insights are crucial for shaping future water management plans, policies, and informed decision-making for climate adaptation.