Soil water distribution, uniformity and water-use efficiency under alternate furrow irrigation in arid areas

S. Z. Kang*, Z. S. Liang, X. T. Hu, Y. H. Pan, P. Z. Shi, Jianhua ZHANG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

111 Citations (Scopus)


Soil water distribution, irrigation water advance and uniformity, yield production and water-use efficiency (WUE) were tested with a new irrigation method for irrigated maize in an arid area with seasonal rainfall of 77.5-88.0 mm for 2 years (1997 and 1998). Irrigation was applied through furrows in three ways: alternate furrow irrigation (AFI), fixed furrow irrigation (FFI) and conventional furrow irrigation (CFI). AFI means that one of the two neighboring furrows was alternately irrigated during consecutive watering. FFI means that irrigation was fixed to one of the two neighboring furrows. CFI was the conventional method where every furrow was irrigated during each watering. Each irrigation method was further divided into three treatments using different irrigation amounts: i.e. 45, 30, and 22.5 mm water for each watering. Results showed that the soil water contents in the two neighboring furrows of AFI remained different until the next irrigation with a higher water content in the previously irrigated furrow. Infiltration in CFI was deeper than that in AFI and FFI. The time of water advance did not differ between AFI, FFI and CFI at all distances monitored, and water advanced at a similar rate in all the treatments. The Christiansen uniformity coefficient of water content in the soil (CUS) was used to evaluate the uniformity of irrigated water distribution and showed no decrease in AFI and FFI, although irrigation water use was smaller than in CFI. Root development was significantly enhanced by AFI treatment. Primary root numbers, total root dry weight and root density were all higher in AFI than in the FFI and CFI treatments. Less irrigation significantly reduced the total root dry weight and plant height in both the FFI and CFI treatments but this was less substantial with AFI treatments. The most surprising result was that AFI maintained high grain yield with up to a 50% reduction in irrigation amount, while the FFI and CFI treatments all showed a substantial decrease of yield with reduced irrigation. As a result, WUE for irrigated water was substantially increased. We conclude that AFI is an effective water-saving irrigation method in arid areas where maize production relies heavily on repeated irrigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-190
Number of pages10
JournalIrrigation Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2000

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science


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